Say 'No' to chemical use in our clothing

Children's clothing brand | Little Pegs Little girl laying on the floor in a yellow jumpsuit, potting flowers in the gardenAs consumers, we are well aware of the health benefits of avoiding GM foods, using natural beauty products and cleaning products by opting for organic choices. But, what about your clothing? Have you ever thought about what chemicals are being used to create your clothing? What other toxic pollution are being created during the production processes?

Clothing and fabric's are often developed, treated with chemicals to prevent them from staining, wrinkling to name a few. We are offered so many different options of colour and patterns in our clothing choices, but you'll also find the dying and printing processes incorporates chemical use.   The chemicals used can pose a health threat, but not only to you and your family.  Have you ever considered the health hazards of the people who work with them? Or where the chemicals end up after the manufacturing process?

Well, I'm here to talk to you about some of the estimated 8000 synthetic chemicals that are being used in the manufacturing of your clothing and why you, as a consumer need to stop and think about what types of clothes you are buying for you and family.

Chemical Crops

The introduction of chemicals comes as early as the farming of the fibre crops, where hazardous pesticides and insecticides are used for the growing of non-organic crops.  The chemicals don't just feed the crops with toxicity, but the spraying of the chemicals creates exposure risks to the surrounding communities, the irrigation supply and potential food supplies.

According to Pesticide Action Network UK the main culprit for this is cotton; which covers 2.4% of the world’s cultivation lands a pretty small amount right? So why is it that this small amount of land requires the use 16% of the world’s insecticides and 6% of the world’s pesticides? 

They also discuss the consequences of this with nearly 1,000 people dying every year from pesticide poisoning and many more people suffer from chronic illness, such as cancers and leukemia, neurological diseases and reproductive problems.  This isn't just the workers in the fields and factories, there are still traces remaining when you buy the clothes and washing them doesn't always remove every chemical!

Yarn - Fabric - Garment

Then there's the fibre and yarn stage; most garments bought are made up of mixed fibres both natural and man-made, which means that these fibres are bonded together by chemicals and if you want a specialist type of fabric; water resistant, wrinkle free, flame retardant to name a few, then further chemicals are used (a full listing can be found at allergy standards). 

Let's look at wrinkle free finishes; I know I hate to iron, most of the time I actually don't, but that isn't the case for everyone, so to make life easier we purchase wrinkle free clothing or mixed fibre compositions like poly cotton.  Yes, they might be more convenient, but at what cost to your health? 

These amazing finishes are actually just a mixture of toxic treatments like urea resins and formaldehyde.  Which are primarily used in construction (urea resins) and to preserve dead bodies (formaldehyde), still sounding marvellous? Unfortunately, these toxic chemicals also impact on the living and have been linked to dermatitis and lung cancer. So perhaps a bit of ironing isn't actually so bad after all?

Dying & Printing

What about all the amazing colour's and printed garments we can buy, they also carry the weight of hazardous chemicals, which not only stay in the garments you buy, but also impact on the environment as well.  If you think that washing your clothes is going to make a difference then you'd be wrong, research has shown that harmful chemical residues are still present even after 10 washes.

But let's talk about the dyes being used; Azo dyes are the most commonly used dyes in the textiles industry, the most harmful colour's you will come across are our beloved blacks and browns, which contain concentrations of P-Phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical that has been proven to cause skin allergies and dermatitis. 

There are some dyes that also use pigments which contain mercury - also harmful to the skin, but has also been linked to damaging organs. If they can do this type of damage to our own bodies, can you image what is being done to the environment when the waste is being disposed of? 

20% of the industrial water pollution comes from textiles treatments and dying, most of the countries that produce dyed or printed garments, dump untreated toxic wastewater directly into rivers.  These are extremely harmful for not just the aquatic life, but also the millions of people living by those river banks and when it finally reaches the sea, well it eventually spreads to a globe issue. 

Let's look at the facts.. 

  • 22% of pesticides and insecticides are used to grow non-organic crops, which not only impact on the workers, but traces remain within the garments you purchase and wear.
  • Easy to care for clothing can only be produced with the use of harmful chemicals
  • 20% of the water pollution comes from the dying and printing textiles industry
  • Chemicals used in the dying and printing processes stay on the clothes even after they have been washed.
  • Health consequences include: cancers, leukemia, neurological diseases and reproductive problems, skin allergies, organ damage and dermatitis. Not just the workers, but also the people wearing the clothes.

So, what's the solution?

There is only one solution; that's to buy 100% organic cotton clothing, which have global standards attached to them.  If an item of clothing has been marked with GOTS then you know that you are purchasing clothes that have been through a series of regulations from the beginning of the supply chain to the end product.  

The strict standards are consistently monitored, checked and if they aren't met then the certification is removed. These textiles/apparel standards are here to protect; the consumers, the workers and the environment.  Unfortunately although we are seeing an increase every year on suppliers, moving to GOTS certification, there are still too few for this way of living to become the 'norm'.

Unless you, the consumer start to really think about how you purchase your clothes, the supply chains will never move to a more sustainable, cleaner practice.  You have the ability to make changes, to reduce the use of chemicals in the fashion industry, you can support this, by purchasing clean clothes from clean brands.

As a children's clothing brand that only uses 100% organic cotton, which does require dying and printing as part of the manufacturing process, I know that there are alternatives out there, I use these option to make sure that you are buying cleaner and safer clothing for your little ones, check out our 'how we produce' for more information about what makes our clothes so clean.  

If every brand started to use these options, we would all be wearing cleaner, healthier clothing and our environment would also be a much more wholesome place to live.

If you want to know more about GOTS standards and what it means for you as a consumer, then check out my blog post 'What does 'GOTS' actually mean?' or visit the GOTS website.


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