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Could Toxic Clothing Be Harming Your Health?

April 05, 2017

By now, we all know that organic food is better for your health and eating chemicals applied during food manufacturing is probably best avoided. We are also aware that we need to choose natural skincare and makeup, as the chemicals in these products can permeate our pores and enter our bloodstreams. But have you ever thought of extending these precautions to your clothing and what you wear?

Numerous highly toxic chemicals are used at every stage of clothing manufacture, something Greenpeace have been bringing to the general public’s attention for the last few years with their Detox Fashion Campaign. In 2012, they produced The Toxic Threads Report, putting ‘Pollution on Parade’ and exposing how textile manufacturers were hiding their toxic trails.

Although Greenpeace’s focus is more about environmental pollution, their work also provides reliable research into hazardous chemicals used in textile manufacturing that are relevant to human health.

Why Fashion Needs A Detox

Consider conventionally produced cotton, which is not only one of the world’s most heavily sprayed crops in terms of pesticides, but is also considered to be a major polluter of the fashion industry. After harvest, its natural cream colour is bleached to a more desirable white, followed by chemical dyes, containing plasticisers, to create the required fabric colour. In addition most garments also contain ‘finishing chemicals’, including PFCs, used to stain and waterproof clothing, and Phthalates, which help to make some textiles softer, to name just two.

Many of these chemicals are on The Environmental Working Group's hazardous list and are considered a health risk. Given that your skin is the largest organ of your body, with millions of tiny pores that have considerable absorption capabilities, perhaps it’s time to start to take some notice of where our clothes come FROM and how they are made.

Greenpeace’s most recent report investigating the chemical content in sportswear really opens up the debate. Their analysis of one high street brand’s sportswear found substantial toxic chemicals:

Phthalates: Plasticisers - linked to certain cancers, adult obesity, and reduced testosterone

DMFs: Dimethylformamide - easily absorbed chemical connected to liver damage

NPEs: Nonylphenol Ethoxylates and NP’s (Nonylphenols) - linked to reproductive issues

PFCs: Polyfluorinated Chemicals – affects liver and thyroid function

Accepted, the concentration of chemicals found in clothing may not cause immediate, acute toxic problems for the wearer in the short-term, but little is known about the long term impact on human health. To date there has been little research done on the topic although this is slowly changing. Regardless, it certainly gives credit to the argument that organic, or more natural, and less chemical fabrics, aren’t just better for the environment, but also better for our health.

Here at FROM, we have been raising awareness about the chemicals used during activewear manufacturing with our Detox Activewear Campaign. More specifically our focus has been around sports and yoga bras, tight fitting garments worn on the breasts, and how the fabric interacts with the skin during exercise. Sweat and friction can prompt more rapid absorption of the fabric's chemicals through the skin’s pores into your body. Given the proximity of the lymph glands, the potential health risk is not unlike that presented by deodorants containing Aluminium.

Take a look at our short explainer video telling you more:

First published in ELUXE Magazine March 2017

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