“The more synthetic clothing you have, the greater your risk of absorbing enough toxic chemicals to affect your health”
– from Killer Clothes, chapter 2
Have you ever thought about what your clothing is made of? I bet if you were to go to your wardrobe and look at the labels right now, you would see a lot “Made In China” and polyester, nylon, arylic and rayon. These are chemical concoctions, and studies are starting to reveal that wearing these materials in close contact with your skin on a regular basis can make you ill. The processing of these materials include chemicals that are linked to health problems such as cancer, skin irritation, hormone disruption and also negatively impact the environment and aquatic life.
Synthetic dyes and finishes that are added to fibers are also especially pernicious. Dyes for example can contain heavy metals which are associated with a bunch of problems from skin reactions to organ damage and can bioaccumulate in aquatic life, especially in bottom feeding fish.
Polymers called phthalates are sometimes used to bond dyes to to fibers. These chemicals are known hormone disruptors that cause sexual deformation in humans and other animals and are known to induce “the feminization of males”.
Formaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical, is used very frequently in clothing to preserve finishes and bond dyes to fibers. (Finishes are things such as anticling, anti-wrinkle, waterproof, perspiration proof, etc.) Formaldehyde is known to be capable of causing cancer in humans and has a connection to respiratory tract damage (irritation to the lungs and bronchi).
Another cause of concern of formaldehyde and other synthetic chemicals is contact dermatitis, which can be a whole range of skin problems from eczema to irreparable rashes. (Wow. I have always had issues with skin irritation, eczema and rosacea. I’m so eager to get my clothing on the organic side to see if I can be rid of this problem once and for all.)
Did you know that countries that export their clothing to us, such as China, may not have the same standards for use of toxic chemicals they put in their fabric? A study done in a New Zealand consumer TV show showed that clothing imported from China contained 900 hundred times the amount of safe exposure levels to formaldehyde.
These issues are especially of concern for young children and babies as they have thinner, more absorbent skin. There is information on flame retardants in children’s clothes in the book “Killer Clothes“. I won’t go into the details here, but it’s scary. Basically, just don’t put synthetic clothing on your kids.
Even clothing that is made from cotton or wool (unless it is organic) is still not any better since it will likely be processed, colored and bleached with synthetic chemical dyes and detergents. The process of harvesting cotton requires the use of a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well, the residues of which remain in the fibers.
As much as possible, we should only be wearing clothing made from traditional sources such as hemp, silk, wool, alpaca and organic cotton, and dyed with natural (vegetable) or non-toxic dyes.
I really recommend reading upon this subject for more in depth details, stats and studies to really drive the point of eco-clothing home. The more knowledgeable you are, the more power and control you have over your life and health.