It’s almost Earth Day! So what a perfect time to discuss how to better the earth (and your own body) by choosing what your wear. Yes there are even toxins in our clothing! I’ve touched on how to be aware of toxins in the home and in your food, but what about what you wear? We can wear clothing anywhere for several hours at a time, so it is probably a good idea to know about the fabric and dyes used to make it.
Greenpeace International did a study with several major clothing brands and found that 2/3 of the brands clothing testing positive for nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in the manufacturing process. This chemical breaks down into toxic nonylphenol (NP), which has hormone-disrupting properties that can be hazardous even at low levels. Unfortunately, most of the clothing in the United States is manufactured in Asia where the laws on chemicals in manufacturing are more lax.
The manufacturing process is concerning. The amount of energy that goes into producing a single t-shirt is absurd. Anywhere from 700-2000 gallons of water are needed to produce the cotton for it. And what about the color of the shirt? That dye used is probably not made a vegetable. That yellow shirt is made with a dye that was recently found to contain PCB 11 and is hazardous to your health. PCB’s are known to toxic to your health. So look for clothing that is made with non-toxic dyes.
Dyes can be worrisome, but so can the material itself. Some clothing to watch out for in terms of toxicity would be anything labeled – ‘water resistant’, ‘easy care’, ‘flame retardant’, ‘anti-cling’, ‘wrinkle free’. These fabrics can release formadehyde and ‘antibacterial’ items are treated with triclosan.
Some materials to look for are – organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, flax, organic wool, silk. Keep in mind that one non-organic shirt uses 1/3 of a pound of fertilizer and pesticides. So what is good for your body is also better for the planet. ‘Organic’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are also terms you want to look for. Even better are items that are fair-trade and provide a positive work environment for those who make your clothes. You can see some of the most common forms of disease in garment workers here.
So be mindful and start thinking about where you get your clothing and what you want on your skin. The skin is the largest organ and absorbs everything. So be smart and start today choosing better fabrics for better health and a better planet.