World Business: Catching Up with Synthetics

A Frenchman created rayon back in 1884, and European textile makers began weaving fabrics out of nylon a year after Du Pont developed it in 1938. But the havoc of World War II and a certain resistance to wash-and-wear and wrinkle-free clothes made Europe lag behind the switch to synthetic fibers that swept the U.S. in the 1950s. Now Europe is making up for lost time. Synthetic fibers have become a $2.6 billion business in Western Europe v. $2.4 billion in the U.S. Close to two dozen new chemical-based fiber plants are being built...

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