Hundreds of Garment Workers in Bangladesh Factory Potentially Sickened by 'Contaminated' Water

An estimated 450 garment workers became sick on Wednesday while working at a sweater factory in Bangladesh, and health inspectors are testing the water supply for contamination, the Associated Press reports.

Affected workers showed a slew of symptoms including vomiting, nausea and upset stomachs about two hours into their shift at Starlight Sweater Factory. The facility reportedly gets its drinking water from an underground reservoir, piped to the roof and distributed in jars.

This health crisis occurred amid heightened international concerns over working conditions in the country’s garment industry, following a historic factory collapse in the city of Dhaka that killed more 1,129 workers in April. That disaster put pressure on Western clothing companies to take a closer look at the loose safety standards in factories where their products are made.

Forty retailers, including H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Sean John and others, signed a binding accord last month aimed at improving safety standards in garment factories in Bangladesh. The five-year plan instructs companies to conduct independent safety inspections and report the findings, and also finance fire safety and facility improvements.

Two major American retailers—Walmart and Gap—noticeably refused to sign the accord, instead announcing that they would form an alternate agreement, likely non-binding. Representatives from the two companies are expected to testify in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today.

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