Saturday, June 14, 2014

Put your kids to sleep in organic, toxin-free sleepwear

Beware of flame retardant chemicals in your child’s sleepwear. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) children’s sleepwear flammability standards require that all kids’ sleepwear between size 9 months and size 14 resist an open flame for at least three seconds.  If they don’t pass the test, clothing must be treated for flame resistance. Currently, the chemical used to treat the clothing is tetrakis (hydroxymethyl) phosphonium chloride, also known as “Proban” or “Securest.”

Put your kids to sleep in organic, toxin-free sleepwear. Try looking at stores like Hanna Andersson, where you can find children’s sleepwear made of organically grown cotton. For safety, children’s sleepwear needs to be snug-fitting, as loose-fitting garments are more likely to catch fire.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Battle toxins and protect our homes!

            I absolutely love that most citizens of our planet are becoming environmentally aware!  Times are rapidly changing regarding conservation; we don’t need to listen to the Grateful Dead, have dreadlocks or wear patchouli oil anymore.  Average people are getting involved and making a difference!  Truthfully, our current environment is in grave danger to the point that little schoolchildren have engaged in campaigns to reverse damage and preserve what we have.  In fact, my own five-year-old son asked a few days ago if we could save our recyclables and make them into toys.  He specifically noted, “That way we won’t be making the earth dirty with our garbage!”  Yeah, we had a little chat about how recycling works, but the point is that he’s aware of the problem at his age. 
            The good news is that there are many, many different agencies to support through monetary donations and volunteerism.  There’s EarthShare, which actually has numerous branches throughout the U.S., even one here in Oregon; it’s as easy as searching for “earthshare,” with the name of your state.  On a local note, a resource I found is called the Oregon Conservation Network, which is comprised of more than 40 separate environmental groups.  Realistically folks, there’s just no excuse for not getting involved, if my five-year-old can do it, you can too.  It’s so easy; we can sit at home and help out with just a few clicks! 

Superhero Don’t Always Wear A Cape (Cotton Cape) – 5 Easy Ways To Be a Superhero

If you are wearing clothing from one of these well known brands, such as Nike, Adidas, Gap, Banana Republic, or you have a wrinkle free shirt or pants, bed spreads, and other flame retardants products, most likely you are wearing and using man made materials that are harmful to the environment and possibly to you.  The clothes and products sold by these companies contain chemicals that pollute the air, destroy our water ways, killing our fish and other wildlife. 

Here are 5 easy steps to be a Superhero!
1.       Stay away from Nylon, Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic, Acetate or Triacetate products and materials. Read those tags not just for cleaning directions...
2.       Buy natural material such as cotton, wool, or hemp.
3.       Use dry cleaners that are Green (natural detergents) and don’t use drycleaners that use PERC (aka Perchloroethylene).  
4.       Wash your clothes in natural detergent and avoid the non-clinging sheets.  Wash new clothing 2-3 times with baking soda to help wash out the chemicals and dyes. 
5.       Spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers, and everyone!
See how easy it is to be a Superhero? And you didn’t even break a sweat.

Eco-Friendly Documentary "Thread"

Organic and eco-friendly clothing is now more easily obtainable than ever before thanks to the many people that are spreading awareness of this important topic. There are many sources of information about eco-friendly clothing that take shape in a variety of mediums. There are films like Thread that are being made to promote and inform people about textile production and the harmful impacts that this industry has produced.


Thread Documentary Trailer from ThreadDocumentary on Vimeo.

On their website they also have a list of resources related to eco-friendly clothing and related topics. Their resources contain sites that give more information about organic clothing, eco-friendly magazines and websites like The Green Stylist that gives consumers an option to purchase sustainable clothing.

The Health Risks of Toxic Fibers and Fabrics

Bruna Messina said that people when they buy clothes they only care for fabric that are wrinkle free, stain resistant and insect repellent. She said people should know what are they wearing and those fabrics have tones of toxic that affect our body negatively. She listed materials that highly toxic to our body that we commonly see in clothing labels. 

First chemical she talked about is polyester. Polyester fiber is made from synthetic polymes, which are made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terphalic acid. When people use this fabric for a long time, that will lead to skin cancer, other type of cancer, chronic and severe respiratory infections, rashes, itching, redness and dermatitis, for some people will develop disorders for example, reduced sperm count. Polyester is also hazardous to the environment. 

Second chemical she talked about is Rayon. Rayon is made off recycled wood pulp, carbon disulphide, sulfuric acid, ammonia, acetone, and caustic soda.  Carbon disulphide can cause nausea, headache, vomiting, chest and muscle pain, and insomnia. Rayon toxin can cause anorexia, Parkinson disease, and water pollution.

Third chemical she talked about is acrylic. Acrylic is one of the toxin that cause breast cancer for women, high inflammable, not easy to recycle and not bridgeable in the environment.

Furth chemical she talked about is Nylon. Nylon receives chemical treatments using caustic soda, sulfuric acid, and formaldehyde. Nylon is the least eco-friendly textile. It can cause cancer, skin allergies, dizziness, headache, spine pain, and dysfunction.

She recommended that in order for people to reduce these risk factors they should look for more natural product such as cotton, wool, cashmere, hemp, linen, silk, and organic fiber.

The author concluded the article by saying that fashion and fabric industry should develop fabric less hazardous to the users and the environment. 




Toxic chemical plant disasters!

With all of our focus on toxic chemicals in clothing, I have completely forgotten about the possibility of disaster within the United States.  As our blog and website note, these toxins not only pose a threat to humans when wearing the garments, but also damage the environment during production.  While these things are absolutely horrible, I think it’s also important for us to look into another possible danger – chemical factory catastrophes.  
The problem with issues of this nature is that we have a tendency to believe they are a rarity.  Well, within the last three years are Texas, Louisiana and the most recent fertilizer plant explosion, also in Texas.  It’s important that we bear in mind the fact that many of us are well within range of factories, as shown clearly on Greenpeace’s webpage regarding this topic.  To narrow it down even more, check this map and enter your zip code to find the factories in your area.  Don’t panic or start packing your belongings to move, begin by taking action to prevent additional disasters from happening.
Thankfully, Greenpeace has put together an online petition that you can visit, enter your information and send it off.  This is a realistic campaign, which seeks a mandate ensuring chemical plants will choose safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Laws Against Toxins: Could Washington's Safe Products Law Be a Model?



Much discussion has been made about what consumers and activists can do to help end the use of toxins in clothing, but what about lawmakers? What can be done and what currently is being done? In 2008, Washington passed a law that may provide some guidelines called the Children's Safe Products Act. This law requires businesses to report all toxic chemicals used in products designed for children, including clothing. This doesn't apply to adults, though children are the people most likely to be effected by such substances. The state uses a list of 66 chemicals which are thought to be the greatest risk to children.

In August of 2012 the law began to be implemented. The largest retailers had until 2013 to be in compliance while smaller companies have until 2017. Every six months, new companies (smaller ones each time) become subject to the law until it is eventually applied universally. This would allow companies to adapt to the law without being put under too much strain.  To date, several companies have released full disclosures of potentially dangerous products used in their clothing (and other products as well). These companies include Walmart, Gap, H&M and J.C. Penney.

Washington was one of the first states to take action of this kind against toxins via legislation. The law is a good start and could potentially serve as a model for the rest of the nation. At the federal level, a proposed Safe Chemicals Act was introduced in 2013 to amend the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Law in order to "insure that risks from chemicals are adequately understood and managed".

However, it's important to remember that legislative progress of this kind only requires companies to notify consumers of toxins used. There is no mandate to eliminate them. Therefore, the burden still rests on the consumers who now have the information needed in places like Washington. Knowing what's in children's clothing is the first step, the next is putting pressure on these companies to not use these products in the first place.

Chemicals Revealed: Over 5000
Washington State Children's Safe Products Act
Safe Chemicals Act of 2013
Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976

*UPDATE #2* No More Gore-tex!!


Companies That Sell Eco-friendly Alternatives to Gore-Tex Brand Waterproof Products


            By now you should know the gory truth about Gore-Tex. If you haven’t read any of the previous posts that discussed the Gore-Tex controversy, then please catch up on the discussion by clicking on the following links and spending a few minutes educating yourself:
  
Now we will discuss some of the companies that sell products made with some of the eco-friendly alternative brands that were discussed in the previous posts. Some of these companies still have a few products on their shelves that contain Gore-Tex technology, but many of them are currently phasing out their Gore-Tex inventory and some of them no longer sell Gore-Tex products. With so many companies making such drastic changes such as eliminating Gore-Tex products from their inventory, is it not clearly obvious that there is plenty of truth to the Gore-Tex controversy??


Columbia Sportswear (www.columbia.com) – Columbia is one of the largest outwear manufacturers in the world and one of the most popular in the Pacific Northwest. They were the first company to introduce the Gore-Tex parka back in 1975 but have since removed Gore-Tex products from their inventory. They have developed their own PFC-free Omni-Dry products which have won the company multiple awards for innovation and trustworthiness. Columbia’s brands have been tested and proven to be better than Gore-Tex, which can be seen on their product’s signage with the words “Better than Gore-Tex”.


Mountain Hardwear (www.mountainhardwear.com) – Mountain Hardwear has only been around for a little over two decades, but they have proven to be a leader in outerwear. Much like Columbia, Mountain Hardwear invested into Gore-Tex products; they even pioneered Gore-Tex XCR technology. But much like Columbia, they too have entirely removed Gore-Tex from their inventory. No wonder Columbia purchased the company in 2003! Mountain Hardwear has two proprietary eco-friendly technologies that are better alternatives to Gore-Tex: OutDry and Dry.Q (which uses technology licensed from GE’s eVent).


Patagonia Outdoor Apparel (www.patagonia.com) – Patagonia is a clothing company known for their contribution to the environmental movement. They are a certified B-Corporation and commit 1% of their total sales or 10% of their profit (whichever is more) to environmental groups. They sell polar fleece liners that are made from recycled soda bottles and sweaters made from organic wool, which means that the sheep haven’t been dipped in pesticides or undergone the painful process of “mulesing”. While Patagonia still has some Gore-Tex products in their inventory, their own H2No technology uses polyester and polyurethane laminates for waterproofing and breathability, which is a much eco-friendlier alternative to Gore-Tex.


Polartec (www.polartec.com) – Polartec products can be found in most major outerwear retailers such as Columbia, The North Face, and REI. Their NeoShell technology is a great PFC-free alternative to Gore-Tex and is actually considered to be the most breathable waterproof fabric on the market by not requiring high heat or pressure for air flow. Polartec’s NeoShell products are made with a high-quality and extremely durable polyurethane thread and a polyester lining, which has won them many awards and accolades


The North Face (www.thenorthface.com) – The North Face is one of the top three outerwear manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest. They still carry some Gore-Tex products, but the company has been focusing their efforts on the development of their HyVent waterproofing technology. HyVent is a PFC-free waterproof and breathable polyurethane coating which is considered to be a better alternative to Gore-Tex technology.


REI (www.rei.com) – REI is another popular outwear manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest that is known for its environmental initiatives. In 2006, REI was included on the EPA’s top ten list of retailers who purchased cleanly generated electricity. And they have pledged to become a climate neutral and zero waste-to-landfill company by 2020. While REI still carries some Gore-Tex products, they have replaced the waterproofing technology that is used in their own branded products with a PFC-free technology known as eVent. REI’s eVent and Gore-Tex products are both made from ePTFEs (i.e. stretched Teflon) but are manufactured by different processes. While there are other companies that sell products that are higher on the eco-friendly scale, REI has shown that they are devoted to the environmental movement and worth including in this list.



            Now that you know about PFCs and Gore-Tex, and know the names of some of the more eco-friendly brands and companies that provide great alternatives to Gore-Tex, we hope that you will think twice before you purchase another Gore-Tex product in the future. If you choose one of these brands from one of these companies, then you can rest assured that you will be making a difference not only for your own health, but also for the environment. Please tell your friends and family what you have learned!


Recommended Reading

Breathable but Unbeatable: Alternative Membranes Take on Gore-Tex” by Norman Chan of Tested.com (affiliate site of Jamie & Adam of Mythbusters): A lengthy list of eco-friendly alternatives to Gore-Tex. http://www.tested.com/science/43590-war-on-goretex/

Waterproof Fabrics Buying Guide” by Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports: A great explanation of the workings of waterproof fabrics, with a comparison between Gore-Tex and its competitors. http://www.ellis-brigham.com/advice-inspiration/guides-and-advice/buying-guides/waterproof-fabrics-buying-guide

Waterproof Ratings and Breathability Guide” by Evo: Everything you need to know about waterproofing and breathability. http://www.evo.com/waterproof-ratings-and-breathability-guide.aspx

Rainwear: How it Works” by REI: A great discussion on Gore-Tex vs. eVent technology. http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/rainwear-how-it-works.html

Toxic Gore-Tex” by NOW Toronto: A great source of additional alternatives to Gore-Tex. http://nowtoronto.com/lifestyle/story.cfm?content=145425






*UPDATE* No More Gore-tex!!

Eco-friendly Alternatives to Gore-Tex Brand Waterproof Products
 

            Looking for some eco-friendly alternatives to Gore-Tex brand waterproof apparel?? Then this post is for you! The following Greenpeace-approved brands are recommended as replacements for products with fluorine membranes that are based on PTFE (Gore-Tex). These alternative brands include garments made from polyester, polyurethane, paraffin, and dendrimers. If you are unfamiliar with Gore-Tex and the controversy surrounding products manufactured with Gore-Tex technology, then please spend a couple of minutes reading a little bit about the controversy here in a previous blog entry. The next time you are thinking of buying Gore-Tex brand waterproof clothing, please think twice and go with one of these eco-friendly alternatives instead!!
           

Gore-Tex under a microscope


Bionic-Finish Eco (www.rudolf.de) – Bionic-Finish Eco products have an extremely high abrasion resistance, even after 10,000 abrasion cycles! Bionic-Finish Eco by the Rudolf Company makes use of star-shaped branched polymers known as dendrimers, which allow the only complete fiber protection system worldwide for industrial textile and household garments. Their products have oil, water, and soil repellent finishes that perform much better than the conventional fluorine compound-containing finishes.

Bionic-Finish Eco under a microscope


Ecorepel (www.schoeller-textiles.com) – Ecorepel products are environmentally friendly paraffin alternatives to fluorocarbon finishes. Their products consist of PFC-free and water repelling high-tech finishes that are 80-100% biodegradable. Ecorepel was just launched a little over two years ago in January 2012, but its effectiveness has already been proven on many products such as denim, soft-shell and fleece.

Ecorepel under a microscope


Purtex (www.purtex.net) – Purtex is an eco-friendly, 100% solvent-free polyurethane treatment for textile finishes and coatings that is safe for both humans and the environment. Purtex products are completely biodegradable and free from fluorocarbons and metals like antimony. Purtex is one of 20 brands to have adopted Greenpeace’s “detox” standards as an alternative to toxic textiles and clothing.

Purtex under a microscope


SympaTex (www.sympatex.com) – SympaTex products include an assortment of garments with fluorine-free membranes that are both waterproof and “breathable”. SympaTex products mostly consist of polyester with some polyurethane blends that are extremely durable and completely recyclable. A plus side with polyester is that it does not require the use of farmland or insecticides, unlike conventional cotton production methods.

SympaTex under a microscope


Keep an eye out for a future blog post that will include a discussion of some eco-friendly apparel companies that carry products made with the above technologies. With the information you have learned about PFCs in this post, the information you have learned about Gore-Tex in this post, and the alternatives to Gore-Tex listed above, you will be able to use the list of eco-friendly suppliers of alternatives to Gore-Tex that will be available in the next blog post to make conscious changes to your lifestyle habits, with the hope of limiting your exposure to PFCs. By limiting your exposure to PFCs, you can contribute to a healthier lifestyle that is better for you and the environment. Please check out some of the articles mentioned in the recommended reading section below. Thank you!!


Recommended Reading

Insane in the Membrane” by Mike Kessler of Outside Magazine:  A great, in-depth article about the Gore-Tex controversy. http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/Insane-in-the-Membrane.html

Breathable but Unbeatable: Alternative Membranes Take on Gore-Tex” by Norman Chan of Tested.com (affiliate site of Jamie & Adam of Mythbusters): A lengthy list of eco-friendly alternatives to Gore-Tex. http://www.tested.com/science/43590-war-on-goretex/

Waterproof Fabrics Buying Guide” by Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports: A great explanation of the workings of waterproof fabrics, with a comparison between Gore-Tex and its competitors. http://www.ellis-brigham.com/advice-inspiration/guides-and-advice/buying-guides/waterproof-fabrics-buying-guide

Chemistry for any Weather: Greenpeace Tests Outdoor Clothes for Perfluorinated Toxins” by Greenpeace: THE comprehensive PFC report by Greenpeace. http://www.greenpeace.org/romania/Global/romania/detox/Chemistry%20for%20any%20weather.pdf

Case Study on Polyurethanes: Sustainability, Comfort, and Versatility” by the European Diisocyanate and Polyol Producers Association (ISOPA): A great case study that covers 75 years of polyurethane. http://www.polyurethanes.org/index.php?page=case-studies-2

Is Polyester Really All That Bad for the Environment?” by Devon-Ritchie of Solcomhouse.com: An interesting read about polyester and the environment. http://www.solcomhouse.com/is-polyester-really-all-that-bad-for-the-environment-125.htm




Sustainable Cotton

Twenty of the world's most popular brands were all found to contain harmful chemical in a recent study. The clothing tested was mostly manufactured in third world provinces and contained dangerous chemicals that are purposefully added to the merchandise or left over as residues of the manufacturing process. 
Some popular clothing brands that are jumping into the organic world is H&M, with organic cotton and Nike is now offering 100% organic tees and hoodies and is aiming to use 5% organic cotton in all its products. Organic cotton seems to be a popular trend amongst these brands, grown from non-genetically modified plants and without use of synthetic chemicals. .
The Sustainable Cotton Project has partnered with farmers in order to aid their transition to organic farming and has launched the Cleaner Cotton project, which promises to produce cotton with 73% less use of chemicals. Something to think about...if leading fashion brands begin to go organic/toxic-free, could it create a domino effect on other retailers?
H&M organic clothing items 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Detoxing Your Washing Machine


Over the past few weeks, we here at the EcoMerge blog have presented a wealth of information regarding the toxic chemicals and dyes used by clothing manufacturers, and offered a number of solutions you can use to avoid them. One of the first and best places to start removing toxins from your life, of course, is right at home. Allergic reactions to laundry soaps and detergents are fairly common, though many people might not not associate the symptoms with their cause for some time. Check out the WebMd article that addresses chemical allergies. Even if you haven't had an issue, continuous contact with some chemicals can lead to increased sensitivity over time.

But before you start using a greener detergent, or making your own from scratch, you might want to begin with a detox of your washing machine. The One Green Planet website has an easy, 4-step process on how to do it, as well as somegreat recipes for making your own detergent at home. If you'd still prefer to buy your detergent at the store (and support some companies that are doing their part to put non- or low-toxic alternatives on the shelves), the Mother Nature Network has identified the 7 least toxic detergents on the market. 

They are:
    1. Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent, Real Citrus & Wild Lavender
    2. Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap, Peppermint
    3. Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap Baby Mild
    4. Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent, White Flower & Bergamot Citrus
    5. Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent
    6. Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear
    7. Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Free & Clear
Also, be sure and check out our EcoMerge:Solutions For Toxins in Textiles website for a lot more information!

Burberry is to stop using toxic chemicals


The British designer label took the decision following tests by Greenpeace that found suspect chemicals in shirts. Many of these chemicals are now widespread in the environment, following years of discharges into global waterways from clothing factories. The British designer label took the decision following tests by Greenpeace, which found suspect chemicals in many of their cloths. 
Early of this year, Burberry Group made statement that the company will work with clothing companies to achieve this goal

Are There Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Your Clothes?


Greenpeace tested 141 items of clothing from 29 countries, and found that 89 contained nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which are toxic bioaccumulative chemicals that have been identified as hormone disruptors. Greenpeace tested major international brands such as Armani, Levi's and Zara, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Every brand tested was found to have products containing hazardous chemicals. The health risks of clothing don't stop in the manufacturing process. Depending on the laundry products you use, you may be coating your clothes with even more cancer-causing chemicals.

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is not considered by many to be a sustainable way of providing consumers with clothing. This kind of fashion was noted as contributing to environmental degradation in a 2005 Greenpeace report, “Toxic Threads”. “Fast Fashion” refers to clothing that is made cheaply and is sold in high volume for very low prices. The problem with these kinds of garments is that they are not made to last. Outside hems are often finished like interior seams, low quality materials are employed, and low quality assembly techniques are employed. What this means is that these garments do not last and they get discarded and replaced with similar quality garments.



According to an NPR story by Jim Zarroli, investigating the world of fast fashion, “there's a growing public consensus that the mass production of so much cheap clothing is an enormous waste of resources such as fuel and water. While many people donate their clothing to charities and consignment shops, fast fashion tends to be so cheaply made that no one wants to buy it, she notes. Instead, it gets recycled into industrial rags and insulation, or even thrown out altogether — generating the term ‘landfill fashion.’” These discarded garments, filling up landfills, especially because many are made with chemicals and toxic processes, described on EcoMerge, are polluting the environment.

Because these garments, referred to as fast fashion, are made in such high quantities and discarded in such high quantities, toxins, which may be present in an insignificant amount in individual garments, can build up in the environment where they are manufactured and where they are discarded. In the 2005 Greenpeace report, NPE’s and chemical dyes are noted as being culprits in particular. Also noted are some clothing brands that are taking steps to reduce chemical discharge,“Six of these brands – the sportswear brands Puma, Nike, Adidas and Li-Ning, and the fashion brands H&M and C&A – are now collaborating on the further development and implementation of both their individual and collective implementation plans towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals”. Some of the brands listed as being culprits of fast fashion are Zara, PVH (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger), Mango, GAP, Esprit, Metersbonwe, and Victoria’s Secret.

There are several steps that one can take to avoid the environmental degradation caused by fast fashion. Make do and mend; since many fast fashion garments are constructed poorly, they may require mending to wear out fabric that could otherwise last decades. Don’t throw away old clothes, garments can be shared with friends and relatives, and handed down to siblings. Old clothing can also be donated to charitable organizations or sold or traded at thrift stores. Garments can be purchased that are built to last, made with good fabric, finished hems, and finished interior seams, and they can be taken care of in order to extend their lifetime.
NPR article - Jim Zarroli, In Trendy World Of Fast Fashion, Styles Aren't Made To Last

Greenpeace - Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch Up

Beware the Toxic clothing


Today the clothing industry is multi trillion-dollar year industry. Many consumers do not aware how deadly is about their cloth. The more toxic clothing you wear, the greater your risk of absorbing toxic that can cause health problems. Most of clothing industry use formaldehyde to keep the cloth from wrinkling