Thousands of children around the world are forced to pick cotton. In India, child workers in the cottonseed industry are often in a state of debt bondage and work at least nine hours a day. Pesticides used during production cause health problems for the children and they report experiencing headaches, convulsions and respiratory problems. The long-term effects of exposure to toxic chemicals have not been measured.
In Uzbekistan, one of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, as many as two million children are forced to leave school and pick cotton in order to meet government-imposed cotton production quotas. Up to one third of the country’s population is conscripted each fall to labor on cotton farms. While the cotton industry is very profitable for a few large landowners and political elites, the vast majority of cotton farmers live in dire poverty. Independent union representation is almost nonexistent for workers.
This cotton is exported to produce the jeans, T-shirts, and other clothing worn by consumers in the United States and in Europe.
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