DO TOXIC CHEMICALS IN TEXTILES MATTER?

INTRODUCTION

Fashion is the 2nd largest polluter of toxic chemicals in the world – 2nd only to coal! In fashion, it all starts with fibers and materials. We’re not just what we eat — we’re also what we wear.

1/3 of all the world’s textiles are made from cotton. 99% of the cotton on the planet is grown with GMO seeds and the dyeing and printing processes use toxic chemicals. 60% of all the cotton on the planet is actually going into our food system. The seeds are used to make cottonseed oil which is one of the most toxic oils you can use in cooking.

Harsh chemicals are also often used in dyes. There’s a reason 1/3 of the world is walking around with chemical sensitivities!

There’s a wrong assumption out there that if we’re not eating it, it doesn’t matter what we spray on our crops or use in dyes on our clothes! This is so not true. What we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies. Because what we put on our bodies doesn’t pass through our digestive system so it’s like we’re circumventing our body’s alarm system.

Why is this important? The body has a threshold and can only fight so many toxins before it becomes overloaded which can lead to inflammation and ultimately to chronic inflammatory conditions like an autoimmune disease. This is why it’s so important to choose organic clothing and textiles.

GOTS

However, did you know that it’s illegal to use the organic seal that’s used on food products on textiles? Fortunately, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed for textiles to mimic the organic food standard.

If a product is certified with the GOTS seal, it contains 70% certified organic fiber and is free of environmental toxins. This standard is the highest for a textile product.

The next time you shop look for the GOTS seal. If a company is claiming to be organic but doesn’t have the GOTS seal, it’s not legally certified to make the organic claim. When you shop, be sure to read labels and look for the GOTS seal. Vote with your dollars!

WHERE SHOULD I START

WHAT ARE TOXIC CHEMICALS?

You’re probably thinking, this sounds great but is a little overwhelming! Where should I even start? Well, start with the things you use every single day. Things like underwear, sports bras, and pillowcases. Think about what will be touching your skin most often, and what is most likely to “off-gas” and destroy your indoor air quality.

When it’s time to upgrade, do a bit of research before making a purchase. Eco-conscious companies will often have detailed info about products on their website. When upgrading things like linens, clothing, and furniture, be sure and look for the following:

  • Linens – towels, sheets, and pillowcases. Many brands have options that are GOTS certified (best) or OEKOTEX STANDARD 100 (better). Choose organic natural fibers like cotton, silk, and wool vs satin or polyester (fleece, microfibers) to avoid pesticide/herbicide residues, dyes, and plastic nano-particles Start with upgrading your pillowcase!
  • Clothing – Choose organic natural fibers like cotton, silk, and wool vs satin or polyester to avoid pesticide/herbicide residues, dyes, and plastic nano-particles. Start with upgrading the items that touch your body most directly – undergarments, socks, and sports clothing. Water-resistant/proof or stain-resistant clothing is treated with PFAS chemicals so avoid direct contact with skin if possible or avoid it completely. Flame retardants are still often found in children’s pajamas
  • Furniture – sofas, chairs, tables, desks, mattresses, rugs, etc. These items, when new, can “off-gas” volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home and compromise your indoor air quality, and persist for a long time. These are usually big investments so it is critical to be a conscious consumer and ask questions of the manufacturers that you are considering purchasing from. Avoid the following
  1. Flame retardants
  2. polyurethane foam and soybean foam
  3. stain-resistant chemicals and formaldehyde (often in glues)
  4. Petroleum-based synthetic fabrics and toxic dyes

For things like plywood, medium-density fiberboard, or particle board furniture; manufacturers often use glues containing toxic phenol-formaldehyde (PF) or urea-formaldehyde (UF). Look for: organic latex, wool, cotton, kapok, linen, and hemp; solid wood; no or non-toxic glues; low/no VOC stains and varnishes including linseed oil, walnut oil, and refined hemp oil.

FAQS ABOUT TOXIC CHEMICALS

FAQ about toxic chemicals

A question I’m often asked is can you remove chemicals from clothing and linens by just washing them? Unfortunately, the answer is a big no! It’s like trying to wash a conventional strawberry and make it organic — ain’t gonna happen!

The chemicals are embedded into the product — there are harmful chemicals like glyphosate used in the growing of the plants as well as in the processing of the product. The soil is the skin of the earth. It absorbs toxins just like your skin.

Another question is what are the biggest areas to focus on to reduce your toxic burden as far as clothing? Denim for one as it’s very toxic in the way it’s made and finished. Baby PJs are concerning also as there’s a government mandate these be sprayed with flame retardant which is one of the most toxic chemicals out there. Handbags are important to consider too because we put all our stuff in them!

CONCLUSION

The goal here is to make better choices — better, not perfect. Start with the stuff you use every day and go from there.

You want clean energy both internally and externally. It’s all about avoiding the toxins that are harming your health as much as possible.

To learn more about this, download my Personal Care Guide. If you have any questions, shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to give you an answer.



About the author

Susan Taylor, RDN LD is a registered dietitian / nutritionist with 20+ years experience in the nutrition field.  Susan has worked in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, longterm care, rehab, and private practice. She currently enjoys life in the Charleston, SC area and is always looking for ways to fit in a little more beach time.