The Chemicals in Your Clothes
You may be surprised to learn that the clothes that you are wearing could contain potentially harmful chemicals!
Chemicals can sometimes be present in clothing in dangerous levels, and sometimes when this becomes evident the items in question will be recalled. This is something that has been observed in the press recently. Primark has recently recalled thousands of flip-flops due to the presence of a carcinogenic (cancer causing) substance*, and Dr. Martens took their new vegan boots out of stores nationwide when an undisclosed harmful chemical was discovered in trace amounts*.
Addressing the reasons why there are chemicals in our clothes, the harm that these chemicals can pose to our health, and how to avoid this problem, are three questions that we are going to answer today!
Why Are There Chemicals in Our Clothes?
At the very beginning of the production process, the fibres that are grown to later become fabric will more than likely have been sprayed with pesticides. This helps to keep the crops healthy and pest-free, but traces of the chemicals are then present in the fabrics. Furthermore, during the manufacturing process, the fabrics may be sprayed with additional chemicals. This is done in order to make them resistant to problems such as odour and creasing. Chemicals are also used during the dying process, even though many of these dyes are commonly known to be extremely carcinogenic.
Regulations within the clothing industry are not at all strict when it comes to the use of chemicals. In fact, manufacturers are not even required to share information regarding which chemicals have been used on a fabric.
How Are These Chemicals Harmful?
The carcinogenic properties of certain chemicals used on clothes is arguably the biggest cause for concern. Alarmingly, a substance known as formaldehyde can be found all too often in clothing garments. Not only is this chemical carcinogenic but it can also irritate the skin and the respiratory system.
Chrysene, which is the chemical that was found in the Primark flip-flops, is often used in chemical dyes and is known to have the potential to cause cancer. Exposure to chrysene can harm the skin and the eyes, and should be avoided where possible.
Metals are found in countless textiles and this can be dangerous for several reasons. When these metals are present in high concentrations then the garments can actually become radioactive! It is estimated that after approximately 500 hours of wearing such a garment, then the risk of injury becomes serious.
How to Avoid Clothes with Chemicals
The adverse effects of the chemicals often found in clothes can be different for different people. Low levels of these chemicals may present no real danger at all, but frequent over-exposure should certainly be avoided where possible.
When you are shopping for new clothes always opt for those that are made from organic materials. Cotton and wool are fabrics that are increasingly made in an organic way. Additionally, try to avoid synthetic fabrics as the use of chemicals is fairly prevalent. Also, if the garment that you have your eye on is being advertised as crease-free or resistant to odours then it is likely to have undergone some chemical processing.
If you are seriously committed to avoiding chemicals in your clothing then you can always research an individual brands approach to using these chemicals. If a company has nothing to worry about when it comes to the presence of harmful chemicals then they will usually be happy to answer your questions!