Until my recent need to find clothing in certain fabrics I never realized how little I think about how the clothes are made, what they are made out of, where they are made, what chemicals are being used during the construction process, and nearly anything that should be extremely important to know.
What we put on the largest organ in our body is important because toxin absorption does not simply happen through routes like inhalation, ingestion, or injection; toxins can also be absorbed through the dermis layer of the skin.
According to the CDC, “our skin accounts for more than 10 percent of our body mass and research has revealed that skin absorption occurs via diffusion, the process whereby molecules spread from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. Three mechanisms by which chemicals diffuse into the skin have been proposed”:
Figure 1: Intercellular lipid pathway
As shown in Figure 1, the stratum corneum consists of cells known as corneocytes. The spaces between the corneocytes are filled with substances such as fats, oils, or waxes known as lipids. Some chemicals can penetrate through these lipid-filled intercellular spaces through diffusion.
Figure 2: Transcellular permeation
As shown in Figure 2, another pathway for chemicals to be absorbed into and through the skin is transcellular, or cell-to-cell, permeation whereby molecules diffuse directly through the corneocytes.
Figure 3: Through the appendages (hair follicles, glands)
As shown in Figure 3, the third pathway for diffusion of chemicals into and through the skin is skin appendages (i.e., hair follicles and glands). This pathway is usually insignificant because the surface area of the appendages is very small compared to the total skin area. However, very slowly permeating chemicals may employ this pathway during the initial stage of absorption.
Now knowing, simply, how toxins can be absorbed through the skin does this change your mind about being concerned about what could be lurking in your clothes?
Source for Figures 1-3: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/skin/