Clothing is an essential part of our lives. Whether we choose our outfits based on style or function, quality of material matters. However, quality is not limited to the softness of a particular sweater; rarely do we think about the quality of our clothes in terms of our health. The clothes we wear sit on our skin all day, everyday, so what goes into them matters. With labels like “flame resistant, stain resistant, wrinkle resistant, water repellant or easy care”, we might not be thinking about what chemicals you might be unknowingly exposing yourself or your family to. And how the clothes are manufactured also makes an environmental impact – read on to find out more.
Why You Should Buy Your Kids Tight Pajamas
In 1975, California passed a law requiring kids’ pajamas to use flame retardants. Unfortunately, many of the compounds that make up flame retardants are hormonal disruptors, specifically for the thyroid. They have also been shown to be carcinogens, skin irritants, and neurodevelopmental toxins. These include halogenated hydrocarbons, inorganic flame retardants, and phosphate-based compounds. “Inherently” flame resistant materials such as synthetic fabrics are also misleading; many of these materials are manufactured with built-in fire retardants like nylon, acetate, and triacetate.
These fire-retardant chemicals are toxic, but the fear of catching fire might scare you into using them. What many do not realize is that a product treated with flame-retardant chemicals still can catch fire, and when it does, it gives off higher levels of toxic carbon monoxide, soot and smoke than an untreated product, and produces toxic dioxins and furans. Ironically, these toxic fumes are more likely to kill you than a burn, which means flame-retardant chemicals may actually make fires deadlier! There is pretty much no evidence showing that these chemicals make an impact in saving lives in a fire situation. In fact, many firefighter organizations are calling for a ban to using these types of flame retardants.
Instead, buy your children 100 percent organic cotton sleepwear that is tight fitting to minimize any potential risk. Organic materials won’t expose your child to any unnecessary toxins. Try to avoid any materials that have been treated with Proban or Securest, and prewash all new clothes in Borax or a nontoxic detergent.
Avoid Treated Fabrics
Additionally, there are other common fabric treatments on the market besides just flame- resistance. While these may sound like a wish-come-true for those who don’t iron or are prone to spilling, the chemicals (such as Teflon, other PFCs, and formaldehyde) and dyes in our clothing are another route for toxic exposure, causing skin reactions and shedding toxic dust.
Choose Natural Alternatives
There are a lot of wonderful natural fibers from which clothing can be made. Hemp is naturally insect resistant and therefore does not require treatment with pesticides. Flax and silk are also excellent fibers. But wool is often treated with pesticides to kill parasites so be sure to look for organic. Cotton is the biggest textile in use, but much of it now is GMO cotton that is then treated heavily with herbicides. So if you are able to choose organic textiles, you will be exposed to fewer chemicals and also will be helping the environment.
Be a Conscious Consumer
In the United States, clothing has become so cheap that we have become used to just throwing it away. The EPA estimates that almost 13.1 million tons of textiles are thrown away every year, and while nearly half could be reused or recycled, only 15 percent actually are. This means that the average American throws away sixty-five to eighty pounds of textiles every year. So why is this so bad? For the most part, these textiles aren’t biodegradable, so they end up sitting in landfills. In addition, the manufacturing of textiles uses a lot of water. For example, it takes about 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt, and 2,600 gallons to make a pair of jeans—most of it to grow the cotton. In addition, textiles are the fifth-largest contributor to carbon dioxide emission in the United States, a primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
Consumer products carrying the Bluesign label meet strict safety and environmental requirements based on five principles: resource productivity, consumer safety, water emission, air emission, and occupational health and safety. Bluesign helps to manage the chemical inputs to create a holistic system preventing contamination. You can also help reduce clothing waste by buying less, reuse clothing by sharing, purchase or sell at re-seller stores, and recycle textiles if possible.
I’m not saying to never buy new clothes again, but bring awareness to your purchasing habits. I used to buy bags of clothes because they looked “okay” and the price was right, but I ended up having a closet full of clothes that I barely wore. Once I received some sage advice, I reduced my waste by deciding to only buy clothes that I loved and made me feel amazing or that I absolutely needed. And when you do purchase new clothes, choose wisely.