Around this time of the year, we start to see a lot of cute hats, scarves, mittens and sweaters seemingly available everywhere for sale.
Manufacturers of fast-fashion certainly take advantage of the cold Canadian climate and our desire for fashionable winter wear to sell us products that are cheaply made and easily disposed so that we need to continue purchasing more every season.
One place that particularly irks me is Roots, a store that pretends to be all “Canadian” while selling sweater products that are made in China and made with acrylic and nylon.
Acrylic, nylon and probably polyester are the materials that you will mostly likely see listed on the labels of sweaters, scarves and hats from fast fashion outlets. These materials are manufactured in a way to seem like natural fibres, but they are in fact synthetic chemicals that are significantly contributing to destroying the natural environment and can negatively impact your skin and health.
Synthetics and Pollution
Synthetic fibres such as nylon and polyester are non-biodegradable, so they do not break down easily and they persist in nature and wildlife. They are made from petrochemicals and are inherently unsustainable and cause pollution, the manufacturing of which creates greenhouse gas emissions.
Synthetic textiles release microfibres into the environment by being put through the laundry. Studies have show that washing loads of synthetic clothing releases astronomically high amounts of microplastic into our water systems. Acrylic clothing is the worst and releases the most.
This is alarming because these fibres could be poisoning our waterways and the food chain. Researchers are consistently discovering that microfibers are present in large quantities in aquatic life and environment, including fresh water. A study on pollution in the Great Lakes shows that the bodies of fish are alarmingly full of synthetic fibres, which have the potential to bioaccumulate, passing on toxins to the bodies of larger animals.
Microplastic accumulation is really bad for aquatic wildlife. Plastic in the tissues of animals causes toxins to be easily absorbed such as pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls. Studies show that this inhibits the ability to absorb energy from foods, as well as stunts the animals growth. These issues could be passed on to us, up the food chain.
The Consequences Of Wearing Synthetics On Your Skin
Acrylic is made from acrylonitrile, and the Centre for Disease Control notes that this chemical is a carcinogen (brain, lung and bowel cancer). Another Canadian study found that women who had sustained contact with acrylic and nylon in an occupational setting had an increased risk of breast cancer.
Remember, these fibres are made from petrochemicals, they are plastic. They also require large amounts of toxic chemicals to adhere pigments and color to the fibres. Textiles tend to be dyed in under-developed countries where the laws are lenient, and waste water from these factories gets disposed into rivers, seas and oceans, traveling the world.
Contact dermatitis is also a condition associated with chemicals and synthetic fibres, which can mean skin irritation from a mild rash to something more severe and painful. If you have sensitive skin, maybe switching to natural clothing might help.
Chemical sensitivities are on the rise and have been since the 1950’s. The body naturally has mechanisms to detox, but when it is overburdened with things like heavy metals and formaldehyde – which are used to process synthetic clothing – this can result in symptoms such as headaches, loss of concentration, nausea, insomnia and depression. (Hmmm, do you ever wonder why you always feel a little bit ‘off’?) More grave conditions are associated as well, like respiratory issues, cancer, and organ damage.
The best types of clothing to wear are from natural fibres; organic cotton (non-organic is really bad), organic wool, alpaca, hemp, flax and silk.
For the cold weather, I have been using some alpaca fur pieces which are super warm. I have a couple scarves, a hat, mittens and socks. The latter two I got from a local Alpaca farm to me.
I also have a Wilson hat by Wool & The Gang and it is the warmest tuque ever.
Healthy, non-toxic eco-clothing can be more expensive but this is a case of quality over quantity as the pieces are usually built to last longer. What I find relieving about choosing to only wear toxin-free clothing is the minimalism aspect of it and the freedom from being obsessed with what is currently fashionable. Apparel can be purchased that will always be classic. Besides why do we need to be continuously shopping and disposing repeatedly?