Toxic Threads - The Truth Behind Textiles

Posted on February 18 2020

Toxic Threads - The Truth Behind Textiles

What Is In The Fabrics You Use?

Do you buy wrinkle free, shrinkage free, flame-resistant, stain-resistant, mildew-resistant, cling-free, natural, bamboo even pure cotton? Then STOP and READ ON. This is no small issue. The multitude and magnitude of toxic chemicals used in the fashion and textile industries is out of control and it is an issue that is not talked about enough. Whatever the fabric you choose to wear or sleep in, you deserve to know the truth of what is in it. The sad fact is that the majority of the textiles we put on our bodies contain a dangerous cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals, allergens, dyes and skin irritants.

 

During the journey of creating a fabric, numerous toxic chemicals are coated in seriously toxic and harmful substances and added at each stage of growing, processing, dyeing, finishing 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.

 

A false assumption out there is that if you wash the fabrics it will all wash out and it won't remain in the fabric, however the systemic nature of toxins in textiles is like trying to wash the pesticides out of conventionally grown strawberries; it is practically impossible and the only thing that happens is more chemicals are washed out into the environment. Toxic surfactants called NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) are commonly used as detergents in the processing and creation of of the textiles. When NPEs are released into the water, they break down into nonylphenols—endocrine-disrupting chemicals that you are not only exposed to but are highly toxic to fish and ocean wildlife.

 

 

Toxic Waterways

 

The top 10 insecticide treatments for textile crops are classified to be Extremely Hazardous 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. Conventional cotton is grown with genetically modified seeds and sprayed heavily with toxic pesticide sprays like Roundup (the primary ingredient is glyphosate which is linked to cancer) and these persist in the fabric even after manufacturing. Many textiles also contain chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals), ammonia, and/or other harmful chemicals. Add to that heavy metals, PVC, and resins, which are involved in dyeing and printing processes.

 
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) and it only takes seconds for chemicals to start entering into your bloodstream?

 

OEKO-TEX is a standard that addresses eliminating harmful substances in textiles in some part of the textile journey but not the entire journey from seed to shelf. This is where it can be confusing as Bamboo is usually OEKO-TEX certified but breaking down the bamboo is created with heavily toxic chemicals and chemical processing leaving just traces of the original fibre source. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification is the platinum standard and takes things a step further by considering the fibre source and all layers of production. The methodology of organic fibre agriculture, like that of organic food, builds and protects our earth’s ecosystems, and benefits consumers, farmers, and manufacturing workers. It also supports practices to reduce climate change.
 
GOTS-certified organic textiles are free from pesticides, herbicides, NPEs, and GMOs, and dyed without harmful chemicals such as chlorine bleach, formaldehyde and heavy metals. It really is the platinum standard for a truly sustainable textile, from the seed right through to the finished product. Certified organic cotton is grown GMO-free, is never treated with fungicides, synthetic pesticides, or fertilisers, and uses 71% less water and 62% less energy than conventionally produced cotton. Conventional cotton represents less than 3% of the world’s agriculture, yet accounts for 25% of the most harmful insecticides and 10% of the most toxic pesticides used on the planet. Sadly 20% of freshwater pollution globally comes from textile treatment and dyeing. And to make matters worse, 60% of a cotton plant goes back into the food stream as feed for livestock or for oils for many packaged products.

 

The cycle needs to break and practices need to change - this can only come about through awareness. It is of paramount importance to know the certifications and how strict they are and what they cover as not all certifications mean it is ok for the planet or her people.

 

Being strict in certification with GOTS ensures that along the whole supply chain from SEED to SHELF there is :

1. No GM seeds
2. No harmful chemicals, insecticides and pesticides
3. No toxic dyes, bleaches or finishes
5. No child labour
6. 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 not hurt and destroy.
 
All Bhumi products are made from Fairtrade Cotton and adhere to the Global Organic Textile 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.

 

CHEMICAL USED FOR FOUND IN CONCERNS

GLYPHOSATE

Herbicide in cotton growing

Cotton textiles

Carcinogenic; potentially
linked to autism

CHLORINE BLEACH

Whitening and stain removal

Natural fiber/cotton/bamboo
processing (like denim)

Asthma and respiratory
problems

FORMALDEHYDE

Mainly used for
wrinkle-free; also shrinkage;
carrier for dyes/prints

Natural fabrics like bamboo,
cotton, or anything
that’s been dyed
or printed

Carcinogenic

VOCS

Solvents used in all parts
of textile supply chain,
particularly for printing

Finished textiles like bamboo,
especially printed
(natural and synthetic)

Off-gassing, which is a huge
issue for workers. VOCs
cause developmental and
reproductive system
damage, skin/eye irritation,
and liver and respiratory
problems. Some VOCs are
carcinogens

PFCS

Creating durable water
resistance; as stain repellant/
manager

Finished textiles,
especially printed
(natural and synthetic,
especially uniforms and
outdoor clothing)

Carcinogenic,
bio-accumulative (builds up
in bloodstream),
persistent, and toxic in the
environment

BROMINATED
FLAME RETARDANTS

Used to stop clothes from
burning

Required on children’s
clothing

Neurotoxins, endocrine
disruptors, carcinogens,
bio-accumulative

AMMONIA

Provides shrink resistance

Natural fabrics, bamboo

Absorbed into lungs;
can burn eye, nose, throat

HEAVY METALS
(LEAD, CHROMIUM
VI, CADMIUM,
ANTIMONY…)

For dyeing; chromium VI is
used in leather tanning and
antimony is used to make
polyester

Finished textiles,
especially dyed
and/or printed
(natural and synthetic)

Highly toxic; can cause
DNA/reproductive issues,
damage blood cells, kidney, liver;
environmental damage

PHALATES/
PLASTISOL

Used in printing

Printing inks/processes

Endocrine disruptors

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About the Author: Vinita is the Founder of Bhumi Organic Cotton and passionate about an Earth Life Balance


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