A Good Start

It may seem overwhelming when you begin understand the correlation between your health and your clothing. The skin is the largest organ and is constantly under attack from environmental hazards, toxins from beauty and toiletry products, and the chemicals in our water that we shower with… the list goes on. It may almost seem a lost cause… but it’s not! There are so many easy swaps we can make, that may not even require you to purchase new goods.  Just because you cannot afford a whole new wardrobe does not mean you can’t mitigate the damage that is likely happening.

Start small-

Cleaning products- These are huge, stop buying commercial cleaners. They are chock full with things that we cannot pronounce, and would never want touching our skin and their labels typically come with ample warnings.
A staple in my home is VINEGAR. This stuff can pretty much do anything. To clean my floors and counter tops I mix equal parts vinegar and water, add essential oils as desired for a “friendlier” scent.
Hydrogen peroxide is another staple. This stuff can be used to kill bacteria and viruses on counter tops, floors, kitchen surfaces etc. Using 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, you can pretty much conquer the flu season. Use is to disinfect everything!

Toiletries & Beauty Products- I have so many recipes and tips it’s hard to choose which ones to share! My favorites products to use though would include baking soda, honey and oils. Using these three products you can pretty much cover all of your needs.

Shampoo/ish-Baking soda can be made into a simple solution with water to wash your hair. It does not lather but cleanses your scalp, puts your PH in check and won’t strip your hair.

Conditioner-…you guessed it, vinegar! I mix this with equal parts water and a couple drops of an essential oil and spray onto my hair, no rinsing!

Face Wash-Honey and baking soda, that’s it! This is great for exfoliation and nixing bacteria. Mix small amounts in your hand to make a thick paste, slather it on. Leave it on for a couple minutes for a mask.

Lotion- OIL! People are so scared of oils. Coconut oil, olive oil, grape seed oil to name a few, are great for moisturizing.  Coconut is my personal favorite; I apply every time I get out of the shower.

These items are likely already sitting in your cupboards.  They are all safe to ingest, (yes even H2o2, in very small amounts) and pose no threat to your health. Go make a switch right now! You could even clean your house naked! No toxins from your clothing, none from your cleaning supplies, maybe slap on a baking soda and honey facemask-- make sure your blinds are closed though!

Global Clothing Company Takes a Stand

            Among the companies discovered to be putting potentially hazardous chemicals into their clothing, one is apparently taking the lead towards correcting this problem. The British fashion and apparel company Burberry recently designed a purple £175 shirt which was discovered to contain large traces of nonylphenol ethoxylates, also known as NPEs. The shirt in question was manufactured in Tunisia and was later modeled by eleven-year-old Romeo Beckham, son of David and Victoria.
While there’s little evidence the chemicals would pose any immediate harm, Greenpeace (the organization which conducted the study that discovered the chemicals) maintains that there is a potential for harm to children in the long-term (if less so for adults) since the toxins can impact hormone development. Their campaign recommends eliminating the toxins completely from clothing by 2020.
As many companies continue to resist the effort, Burberry has apparently jumped on board and vowed to work with Greenpeace to accomplish the goal of eliminating toxins from their clothing by 2020. The process is set to begin immediately. Greenpeace has praised the company’s decision as a potential model for other clothing manufacturers to follow. For more information, please see the links below.

Burberry Responds to Toxic Chemical Claims
Burberry Crackdown on Toxins in Children's Clothing...
Burberry Pledges to Banish Toxins From Its Clothing
Burberry's website

"Wrinkle-Free" May Mean the Presence of Formaldehyde

According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, formaldehyde, a chemical commonly known for its’ use in embalming, is used in clothing. The GAO(Government Accountability Office) found that the formaldehyde may cause nausea, dermatitis, exacerbation of asthma, eczma, and cancer. The report shows special concern for dermatitis.
“the health risk of greatest concern associated with formaldehyde in clothing—allergic contact dermatitis—stems from dermal exposure. A form of eczema, allergic contact dermatitis affects the immune system and produces reactions characterized by rashes, blisters, and flaky, dry skin that can itch or burn.”

A 2010 New York Times article, by Tara Siegel Bernard, covering the GAO report, notes that the formaldehyde treated “wrinkle-free finish” garments can be commonly found at many U.S. retailers. Bernard also points out the use of the formaldehyde treatment on textiles in household applications from bedding to upholstery. Also in the GAO report and noted by Bernard Is the danger to the workers who come in contact with the formaldehyde in factories. This not only is a consumer protection issue but also a workers protection issue. Bernard listed Gap, Banana Republic, Dockers, Levis, Nordstrom, and Land’s End, all retailers of non-iron clothing, as adhering to “standards” but but was vague about what standards are. She points out that there is a lack of regulation in the garment industry aside from self created standards that retailers and manufacturers may or may not adhere to.

Another 2010 article covering the GAO report in Consumer Reports, by Carolyn Cairns and Aaron Bailey, gave an account of a staffer who showed symptoms of headache and sore throat after wearing formaldehyde treated clothing. Cairns and Bailey suggest, according to the GAO report, that washing clothes can reduce the presence of formaldehyde. They also point out that there is no regulation or government oversight on chemical presence in clothing in the U.S.


The Monsters are coming!
Parental instincts engage almost immediately after children are born – we begin asking people to wash their hands before holding the baby, even risking offense by asking that they not visit when sick.  After successfully defeating the diseased masses, our next thought is towards immunizations (or not), then eventually to nutrition.  But wait, there’s more!  Environmentally conscious groups have been discussing potential toxins in clothing, especially those for children.  Being that I am a skeptic, I have decided to research this topic rather than being an automaton; I invite you to join me and see what we might discover together. 
            A simple Google search for “toxins in children’s clothing,” yielded some disturbing results, the most worrisome being Greenpeace’s “New study finds toxic monsters lurking in children’s clothing…”  Not one to fall prey to scary phraseology, I decided to read the piece with an open mind and do my best to determine the validity of it after doing so.  In complete honesty, the article seems a bit hyped up with words like “nightmare, hazardous chemicals and little monsters.”  But, as is often the case with stories of this nature, there is an element of truth behind the hysteria.  The fact is, there are toxins in clothing, and children are more apt to be negatively affected because they are still developing. 
             A problem with discussions surrounding toxins is that many of us envision movies from the 1980’s, wherein the Swamp Thing lurches out of tepid water to terrorize civilians.  Or, we may expect that there will be immediate repercussions after being exposed to poisons.  In truth, the issue with these lines of clothing is not necessarily that kids can receive burns or rashes, but that they may have reproductive issues or cancer later in life.  As is noted in an online article by The Daily Mail, a popular British newspaper, Green Peace has suggested that these chemicals should be avoided as a safeguard.  There may not be an immediate risk, but why not ensure that your children have a happy and healthy future? 

            Please peruse other posts on this blog for pointers on how and where to find safe clothing. 

You have the power to help!

Ever wonder what you can do on the consumer end? Most of us don't think about the impacts our choices make on the world at large when we're at our favorite store looking for hot new clothes. But what you buy does matter and cutting down how often you buy can leave money to pay a little more for clothes made in responsible ways and in the end can help to save our world from disaster.

Check out these videos to get an idea of how our consumption impacts us and the rest of the world.

As the First-World we have more responsibility for our consumer choices because of how much we consume and how much more we have. 

Second and Third-World countries provide us with much of our consumer products and will continue to use the cheapest practices as long as Americans and Europeans are buying and don't care. Our demand and choices and pressure on American companies who do business in Asia, Mexico, and Africa can convince these companies and their suppliers to make choices that are better for the environment. 

But I don’t want to wear a hemp sack…

By now you understand the basics regarding toxins in our clothing, and how our skin just eats them up. While it would be nice to afford nice, 100% organic cotton clothing, to find “ethical” clothing that was still flattering, it is no easy feat. Since investigating the issue of toxins we encounter on a consistent, and constant basis I have looked into how to gradually replace staple items while not breaking the bank.

What I have decided to do is to take one heavily used item a month and replace it with a like item made from organic materials, whether that be; hemp, cotton, linen etc.  For me that started with my sheets, then my undergarments, then pants, and so on. It’s known that our body does a lot of “regenerating” during sleep, so I thought replacing my sheets would be a good starting point. I was able to find a basic set of sheets starting at about $50, prices increase dramatically with increased thread count. Here are some good options.

I chose to replace undergarments next because in addition to being worn tightly near many lymph nodes, improperly fitting ones can cut off circulation, an issue more for females than males. There is some anecdotal evidence that shows tight fitting bras decrease and inhibit lymph drainage; leading to an array of health problems.

This place  has an array of organic cotton clothing. They carry under garments that start at $30 and go up in price. I was surprised how much they cost, and hope to find a better alternative from a non-online source.  (I’ll keep you posted)

Finding “fashionable” well-fitting and affordable clothing is not easy. In stores, you are looking at anywhere from $20 and up for a basic t-shirt, jeans start at around $100. Yikes. I plan on cruising Good Will and other second hand shops when I have time to spare to see if they have anything to offer. There are plenty of resources, do some investigating, and understand that this is an investment in your health. Take care of your new garments and they will last a long time.

Looking to find environmentally friendly clothing manufacturers?

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a good place to start. SAC is a trade organization made up of members which represent more than a third of the apparel and footwear market around the world. One of SAC’s goals is to reduce the environmental impact of apparel and footwear worldwide. SAC uses a suite of tools called The Higg Index to evaluate environmental impact of facilities, brands, and products.

You can find a list of current members of SAC here.

SAC’s desired outcomes focus on improvements in the following areas:
Water Use & Quality
·  Improve water-use efficiency and/or re-use in cultivation or production of raw materials (e.g. cotton) and the manufacturing of apparel products
·  Minimize the volume and chemical constituents of water discharges associated with manufacturing of apparel products and eliminate impacts to local communities
·  Reduce the need for water use in garment care by challenging conventional washing practices and developing alternative approaches
Energy & Emissions
·  Minimize direct and embedded energy use and carbon in apparel products
·  Drive innovative design and technology to create apparel products that mitigate other carbon impacts in society (such as reducing the need for heating and air conditioning systems)
·  Develop effective uses for textile waste, creating a second life for materials
·  Commit to minimizing waste in our operations, supply chain, and end-of-life of apparel products
Chemicals & Toxicity
·  Reduce the use of chemicals and potentially hazardous materials which pose health or environmental risks if not properly handled in cultivation or production of raw materials, and the manufacturing of apparel products
Social and Labor
·  Collaborate with industry peers and supply chain partners to achieve full life cycle transparency (back to origin of material) about the social and ethical performance impacts of all companies and products
·  All workplaces are fair, safe, and non-discriminatory, including zero exposure to toxic chemicals
(Source: http://www.apparelcoalition.org/desired-outcomes/)

Toxic chemicals in children's clothes

           Toxic chemicals in children’s clothes, explained, DW wrote that Greenpeace reported that they found a variety of toxic chemicals in children’s clothes. They bought clothes from 25 different countries and produced by 12 major brand names. They found hazardous chemicals in most of the 82 items of children’s clothes.  Here is a list of chemicals that found at clothes:
Phthalates: this substance added to plastics to make it more flexible and more durable. It can be found in t-shirt with a large image printed on the front. When it gets in the animal system it could affect its hormone, which may disrupt fertility, cause birth defects, contribute to cancer among humans.
NPEs: is used to wash clothes.  NPEs is highly toxic to aquatic creatures. NPEs are not allowed in Europe, however, not in Asia.
PFCs: are bioaccumulative and persistent.  PFCs linked with cancer and kidney disease.
Organotins: are used as biocide.
Antimony: is used as catalyst in making polyster. Also, it could be used like poison arsenic.
            The article also talked about managing the problem.  The European Union has set up regulations to limit the use of these chemicals. 18 brands are agreed to be committed, and H&M is one of them. The article said Greenpeace is encouraging that china also has regulation to limit these chemicals.   Many companies are working on finding alternative chemistry for the textile industry.

One or more of these is probably on your body right now.

What are you wearing?

You probably work out, eat right and think twice about what you put in your body, but what is on it?

Linen- Linens are known for the “breathability” and are favored in hotter climates. Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant in a rather laborious manner. The word “linen” is used loosely, and can mean any general fabric or style of clothing and it is constantly evolving; this is part due to the fact that linen is one of the oldest textiles.  While organic linens are considered completely safe and free of toxins, it’s important to be aware that linens are often woven with other filler materials and are not always properly labeled.
Cotton- Cotton is one of the most heavily cultivated crops in the world, accounting for the use of nearly for 2.5% of the world’s viable growing lands. Due to its high demand, cotton, and its cultivation have changed over the years. BT pesticides were heavily used, which caused “pests” to become resistant, which lead to the cultivation of GM cotton crops.  The U.S. GM cotton crop was 4.0 million hectares in 2011, the second largest in the world, although the demand for organically grown cotton is on the rise. Cotton’s international monetary trade value is roughly $ 12 billion annually. Like Linen, cotton is often blended with other fibers to create an end product.
Polyester- Polyester is categorized as a group of polymers, when speaking of fabrics; “polyethylene terephthalate” is typically what is being referred to.  Polyesters can be comprised of naturally occurring chemicals, but are more than often comprised solely of synthetics created through a process called “step-growth polymerization”.  Very few types of polyesters are biodegradable.  Polyesters are widely used, and can be seen everywhere from your sofa to your belt to your shoes and your car tires.  Polyester fabrics are sometimes seen as favorable to those seeking clothing that is “wrinkle resistant” and “durable”.
Nylon-Nylon is a group of synthetic polymers that create a “silky” material that gained popularity in the late 1930’s. This material was quickly seen everywhere. It is used to create; stockings, toothbrush bristles, carpet, rope, parachutes, tires, clothing and so on.  There are several ways nylon is created, through chemical productions that involve the combination of molecules with an acid creating a type of thermoplastic that can then be manipulated in to one of several types of nylon. Nylon has many notable characteristics that make it favorable for many industries; high resistance to mold, fungi and insects, very durable, variation/ease of manipulation and it melts instead of burns.
Spandex- Spandex has many names, it is known for its extreme flexibility and durability. Spandex is widely used in sportswear, but has seen increased usage as we prefer clothing that stretches. It is preferred by active individuals due to its ability to dry, or wick sweat and water quickly. There are 4 main ways in which spandex is created though the “dry spinning method” is used to create roughly 95% of the world’s spandex fibers. This process begins with the creation of a “prepolymer” which is done by mixing two different monomers. The solution is reacted with an equal portion of diamine, creating what is called a “chain extension reaction” at which point a solvent is added to make the solution more pliable. It is inserted into a cylindrical spinning cell where it is converted into fibers. The fibers are then treated with yet another chemical, to prevent sticking and bunching.

Next time you're in your closet, take a look at the tags on your clothing. Do you know what it is? Can you pronounce it? Would you eat it? Your skin sure will!

Are your clothes making you sick?

They could be and the processes involved in creating them could also be harming the environment too! You might ask yourself what you can possibly do to protect yourself and your habitat. Well the first step is to get educated about what goes into your clothes and their manufacturing. 

Just click on the image below and head over to Greenpeace to find out more about what clothes could be toxic and why.

After you've become a clothing toxicity expert the next step is to take action. Making smart choices when buying clothes is a big step but often times its not enough. While you and many others might be making the best choices possible in your day to day life the fact remains that many companies will continue to create clothing using dangerous levels of toxic chemicals.

What can you do? Well you can take a look at California proposition 65 which was enacted in the mid 80s to learn more about what chemicals are considered toxic. Then you can find and ask your representatives what they are doing to ensure local goods are made safely. If nothing comparable exists you should encourage them to draft a local measure like California 65.

Remember to shop smart and check back here often for more updates!


            The toxic chemicals that are used in the manufacturing and production of textiles are often less recognized than the toxic chemicals that are present in our food and water. But these toxins are just as important. Every person wears some form of clothing every day, which exposes them to a multitude of various toxic chemicals that are harmful to both humans and the environment. Awareness of the negative effects of these toxins has been increasing over the years, which has led to the search for less harmful and more sustainable alternatives to the processes and products that are used to manufacture and produce textiles. One particular group of chemicals that has gained attention over the years is perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFCs are used in the manufacturing and production of many products, such as food packaging and clothing. Specifically, PFCs have the ability to make a product resistant to oil, stain, and water. This makes the usage of PFCs as a water-proofing agent extremely effective for outdoor apparel. One of the most popular brands of water-proof fabrics to utilize the properties of PFCs is Gore-tex, which first appeared during the 1970s when it became commercially available on many products being sold by companies such as Columbia Sportswear.

            So what is the problem with PFCs? Some PFCs bio-accumulate in humans and the environment and do not degrade by natural processes. This means that they remain in the environment as persistent organic pollutants and act as greenhouse gases. Studies show that PFCs are present in the wastewater from PFC manufacturing plants and drinking water near PFC manufacturing plants in multiple states. Data from these studies have indicated that PFCs can cause several types of tumors and neonatal death, as well as toxic effects on the immune, liver, and endocrine systems of mammals, fish, and bird wildlife. While PFCs have been produced, used, and disposed of without regulation for the last sixty years, new regulations are being implemented to reduce their impact on the environment. Numerous investigations by the EU and EPA have been conducted that address the negative impact that PFCs have on the environment, though the relationship between PFCs and human health effects are still fully unknown.

Figure 1: Global PFC emissions by world region (1970-2005).
click image to enlarge)

Figure 2: PFCs in women ages 16-49 years (1999-2008).
source: http://www.epa.gov/ace/biomonitoring/pfc.html
(click image to enlarge)

Additional resources: