What are we really sleeping in? Lets take a closer look at the sheets we sleep in. British Designer from Grand Designs Kevin Mcleod is a big advocate for certified organic cotton over conventional cotton and writes in his book Principles of Home: Making a Place to Live ...
“I am assuming you sleep in cotton sheets ... Well in a newly bought 100 % cotton bed sheet or pillowcase, there is only 73% of cotton, the rest being chemicals added to the fabric during growing or treatment, including formaldehyde. Not that this is the worst chemical you will be sleeping on: Aldicarb, Parathion, and Methamidophos are in the top 10 insecticide treatments for cotton crops (used extensively all over the world including the US) and are 3 of the most acutely hazardous chemicals listed by the World Health Organization. Indeed according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 7 out of the top 15 chemicals used on cotton are possible, known, likely or probable human carcinogens. Others are hormone disruptors and toxic in many other ways..”
And to add to that, the cotton being used in the first place is Genetically Modified (GMO) and grown with toxic pesticides and fertilisers. We need to make the switch from conventional cotton to certified organic cotton for ourselves as well as for everyone along the supply chain from farmers to textile workers - the people, including children, already suffering quietly from preventable toxic exposure.
What is staggering and not talked about enough is that there are no labels to alert us to what is actually in our textiles or any labels that even state what dyes and colours are used that are toxic. During the journey of conventional cotton into a fabric, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage of growing, processing, dyeing and handling— these are pesticides, fertilisers, silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, fasteners, ammonia, dyes, colourants, finishers, caustic soda, sulphuric acid, bromines, urea resins, halogens and formaldehyde— to name just a few.
And it is these toxic substances that make their way into our bodies, our bloodstream and lymphatic systems while we sleep. We breathe in the toxic cocktail in to our skin and bloodstream when we sleep forcing our immune systems to fight an uphill battle. Our skin is the largest organ in our body. It is our first line of defense and its’ covering protects us as it holds us together. Our skin is known as the passageway to your bloodstream and research suggests as skin is porous it will absorb much of what we place on it. Did you know that our skin is most porous and absorbent when the skin is warm (like when we are cosy in bed)? Did you know it only takes seconds for chemicals to start entering into your blood stream?
There is more emphasis placed on turnover and productivity in today's world, rather than integrity and sustainability. Cheap, accessible chemicals are now widely utilised to bring down the cost of manufacturing. Chemical fasteners are used to lock colour in, while toxic finishers are used to artificially create a softer fabric. Phthalates, used to make plastics more flexible, are commonly found in textiles. It often emits a strong plasticky smell, demonstrating that the chemicals are now airborne - and able to enter directly into your respiratory system.
These toxins are especially dangerous because they are hidden, and sometimes do not exhibit immediate symptoms. For many people, however, they can manifest in multiple skin sensitivities, respiratory disorders, hormonal disruptions and skin allergies. Our bodies fight back, and attempt to safeguard against these intruders; but all warriors need rest, and if your immune system is constantly exposed to the fight against harmful chemicals, it will eventually begin to wither and wear down.
Furthermore, the saturation of hidden toxins goes all the way to the roots. Formaldehyde, Alidicarb, and Parathion, for example, are in the top 10 insecticide treatments for textile crops; these are classified to be Extremely Hazardous (category Ia on the LD50 scale) by the World Health Organisation. In ways direct and indirect, our demand permits the degradation of health beyond our own bodies; it affects the farmers and makers, the waterways, and the soils that form the skin of our Earth.
It is so important to ask questions, read labels and become empowered and educated about what you put on your body. Just like you feed your body with nourishing food you also need to feed and surround your skin with products that will heal, nurture and protect your largest organ. Watch out for words like: NATURAL, PURE COTTON, PURE, EVEN ORGANIC as these terms are loosely used. Ask questions.. Find out the process something has to go through to get to the end stage textile for you to sleep in so that you can create your toxic free sleep sanctuary knowing with absolute certainty there are no toxic chemicals, finishers or dyes used.
In the textile world look for GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification for there to be complete unwavering assurance of no toxic substances used, and a positive impact from seed to shelf on humanity & the environment, as they exist together.
Being strict in certification ensures that along the whole supply chain from SEED to SHELF there is :
- No GM seeds
- No harmful chemicals, insecticides and pesticides
- No toxic dyes, bleaches or finishes
- No child labour
- Fairwages and safe working conditions
Overall, this results in having the lowest environmental impact, a deep sense of social justice with fair trade practices and also the purest and softest cotton, that is resilient and gentle on your skin.
At Bhumi we are firmly committed to providing ethical alternatives for sustainable luxurious living. We are seeing a rise in the number of people with skin sensitivities, allergies and reactions to dyes and fabrics. We are thrilled to be able to provide people with beautiful healthy alternatives that protect and nurture. All Bhumi products are made from Fairtrade Cotton and adhere to the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) and dyed using water based GOTS approved dyes, which are free from AZO dyes, toxic chlorine bleach, toxic heavy metals, toxic formaldehyde, toxic aromatic solvents with no toxic colour fasteners to artificially lock in the colour with chemicals. All of our products are made with love for the Earth and Her People. We strongly believe that knowledge brings power. Power brings choice. Choice brings change. Change for the better – for the earth and for humanity.
About the Author: Vinita is the Founder of Bhumi Organic Cotton and passionate about an Earth Life Balance.