Tehuacán is the second-largest city in the Mexican state of Puebla. The Tehuacan region, formerly known as one of “Mexico’s jeans capitals, " became infamous at the beginning of the 2000s for environmental pollution caused by the industry, human rights issues, and low wages, which were widely denounced in the press. There are about 300 garment factories and 25 laundries in the Tehuacan region. 
Tehuacan’s garment industry has a history of over 30 years. Until the 1980s, manufacturers produced primarily for the domestic market. The Mexican government’s trade liberalization policies of the mid-1980s encouraged a transformation in the industry toward export manufacturing, primarily for the US market. Following the signing of NAFTA in 1994, Tehuacan experienced a boom in garment export-manufacturing and a second restructuring of the industry to meet new buyers' needs. The US jean manufacturer, Guess, was one of the first companies to shift production to Tehuacan to maquilas owned by local consortiums such as Grupo Navarra. Other US brand merchandisers and retailers followed, including Levi Strauss, VF Corporation, Sara Lee, Farah, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren, The Limited, etc.
While the inhabitants of Tehuacan and surrounding communities are predominantly of indigenous origin, as are the young women and men who work in the region’s export garment factories, ownership of the maquila industry is concentrated in the hands of a few elite families of Spanish origin . The culture and way of life of indigenous campesinos in the region have undergone significant changes as a result of the growth of the maquila industry.
Another significant impact of the maquilas on indigenous communities is the use and contamination of water by jeans laundries, the same water that many indigenous communities use to irrigate their crops. The largest aquifers in the region are located in the Altiplano zone, as well as under some villages adjacent to Tehuacan, including San Lorenzo Teotipilco, San Bartolo Teontepec, and Magdalena Cuayucatepec, from which Tehuacan gets its water supply. The largest jean laundries, "Private Label" and "Cualquier Lavado", are located in Cuayucatepec and San Lorenzo Teotipilco, where they use and contaminate enormous quantities of water that is later used by indigenous people to irrigate their crops. OSSAPAT, the municipal body responsible for providing potable water, admits there are currently 140 colonies in Tehuacan lacking potable water service. Most of these neighborhoods are inhabited by maquila workers and their families and are located in the periphery of the city.
In March 2000, OSSAPAT released alarming information about the use and availability of water in the city, reporting that the water table has been dropping by 1-1.5 meters a year, at the same time as the population has increased by 10,000-13,000 a year.
The water from this region contains a high concentration of minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, potassium, sodium and iron, which makes it ideal for the production of bottled mineral water, still an important industry in the Tehuacan region. (At the beginning of the twentieth century, the abundant water and its medicinal properties prompted the development of bottling plants for mineral water. This industry expanded in Tehuacán until the 1970s when it began to decline because of the textile industry underground pollution . Some water bottled are still working there, but others had to leave, such as Agua de Tehuaca, Garci-Crespo, Balseca, San Lorenzo and San Francisco). In this zone, indigenous Campesinos use the same water for the production of corn, alfalfa and chilies. The Valsequillo Canal, which flows from Puebla to Tehuacan, was originally built for irrigation purposes. Today the canal is also used by farms and laundries to discharge their residual waste, including the dyes and chemicals used to make designer jeans.
The water that is discharged from the laundries contains residues of fabric dust, silica and pumice, and chemicals, such as caustic soda, chlorine, sodium bisulfate, oxalic acid, peroxide, acetic acid, potassium permanganate, and hexametaphosphate. All of these toxic chemicals pass through the Valesquillo Canal and end up in water used to irrigate corn and other vegetables grown in San Diego Chalma and Ajalpan. Recent studies have confirmed that the residual water discharged into the canal contains heavy metals, such as zinc, lead, copper, nickel, chrome, mercury, cadmium, and selenium .
Tehuacan (319,375 inhabitants) reported infant mortality of 26.67 on 10 thousand people. The first cause of death is diseases of the intestinal tract, kidney, and liver that have a close relationship with water contamination and scarcity. Liver disease has increased since 1990, the year in which the textile industry took hold. Stomach and brain cancer mortality rates are among the highest in Mexico. These data are comparable to those found in areas contaminated by mining activities such as Cananea, Guadalupe, Calvo, and Aquila.
The Federal Procuraduria for the Protection of the Environment (PROFEPA) has publicly admitted that jean laundries are the most polluting companies in Tehuacan, worse than local pig farms or other industries. According to environmental expert Ismael Hernandez, regular consumption of agricultural products from fields irrigated by water containing high concentrations of these heavy metals could result in serious health problems, including neurological disorders and anaemia, among others.
The majority of maquila workers in the Tehuacan region live in poverty, and in many cases in extreme poverty. Indigenous workers who have migrated to Tehuacan to work in the maquilas live in colonias (neighborhoods) and asentamientos (squatter communities) on the periphery of the city that often lacks services such as potable water, electricity, sanitation facilities, etc. The houses of recent migrant workers are constructed of materials at hand – wood, metal sheeting, plastic, and cardboard.
Inhabitants of some of these asentamientos have formed community organizations, and after pressuring the municipal government for a number of years have succeeded in obtaining land rights and the right to basic services, such as electricity and potable water.
The labor movement in Tehuacán emerged as a response to poor working conditions in the textile factories and workers’ demands for labor rights. The workers in the industry describe an environment in which mistreatment and humiliation, discrimination against indigenous workers, sexual harassment, and prohibition of free association and unionization were common; they were exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals, lack of social protection, and long working hours. After a union campaign and its international repercussions in the press, certain improvements in working conditions in the maquilas of the major brands were achieved, such as the installation of firefighting equipment, courses on industrial safety and behavior, and the elimination of child labor. These advances, which improved the international corporate image of the major transnational textile firms, had negative repercussions in Tehuacán. Major textile firms began relocating out of Tehuacán to southern Mexico and Central America to reduce their production costs through cheaper labor. Local authorities and business leaders blamed the economic situation on the trade unions, which became the target of death threats, extortion, and blacklists.
Over-exploitation of aquifers and water pollution went unnoticed, overshadowed by labor problems and the conflict over unionization. This permitted the factories and industrial laundries to make free use of water through the National Water Law (1992), which imposed no restriction on the extraction and use of water according to the activity to which the resource was destined. It was not until its reform in 2004 that limits on the extraction and use of water began to be defined through the establishment of ‘regulated zones’, ‘reserve zones’, and ‘closed zones’ .
In 2011, Greenpeace launched the "Detox my fashion" campaign to raise awareness of the fashion world on environmental issues and, in 2012, published the "Hilos Toxicos" report, precisely on the contamination of rivers by the textile industries in Mexico, in Tehuacán. The sample collection included Aguascalientes, San Juan del Río Querétaro, and Tehuacán; the waters were analyzed by universities and laboratories that have worked with Greenpeace and found that there were chemicals in these denim clothes washing processes that are not eliminated by wastewater treatment plants, and they are also carcinogenic.
That is why they placed the international brands of these denim clothes such as Levi's, Gap, Guess, among others who promised before Greenpeace to stop using chemicals that are harmful not only for the environment but for people. Among these are:
* TMDD is a surfactant, which is moderately toxic to the aquatic environment;
* HMMM, which is used to produce resins, is toxic to aquatic organisms, they also found traces of two trichlorinated benzenes, which are persistent toxic chemicals used as solvents and dye carriers;*
Two phthalate ethers (DEHP and DiBP), these chemicals are reproductive toxins that have various industrial uses among them in textile manufacturing;
*Noniphenol (NP), is a persistent environmental pollutant, with properties capable of causing hormonal disorders together with ethoxylated noniphenols (NPEs) that are used as detergents and surfactants in the manufacture and washing of textiles, these can degrade;
*Two trichlorinated benzenes that are used as corrosion inhibitors and are moderately toxic to aquatic organisms;
*Tributyl phosphate is a dangerous chemical used in the textile industry and trichloroaniline, which is related to the manufacture and use of dyes, is toxic to aquatic life.
Another dangerous chemical was the tributylphosphate which is supposed to have been removed as per the agreement with Greenpeace .
In 2014 environmental specialists and human rights defenders have urged the authorities that Tehuacán must have a wastewater treatment plant through the channel of the Valsequillo river . Nevertheless, the regulation of wastewater discharges in Mexico does not currently provide adequate protection; regulatory standards are not comprehensive nor rigorous and there is little demand for compliance with the existing norms .