We talk a lot about avoiding the toxic chemicals commonly used in fast fashion, and in the entire textile industry in general. But . . . what are these toxic chemicals exactly?
We broke it down to some of the main offenders.
What it’s used for: found in plastisol printings to increase flexibility and durability (like t-shirts with big, embossed images)
The harm it causes: it messes with hormone levels in animals, which can “disrupt fertility, cause birth defects or even contribute to breast cancer among humans.”
NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates)
What it’s used for: to wash clothing after dyeing
The harm it causes: it doesn’t biodegrade, can accumulate in the tissues of living organisms, and if released into water, is highly toxic to aquatic life
PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals)
What it’s used for: making clothes water-repellent
The harm it causes: it accumulates in the environment and has spread around the world (it has been found in both the Arctic and Antarctic). It’s been linked to cancer and kidney disease.
What it’s used for: its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties keep textiles from getting damaged in overseas transportation, and it prevents the garment from odors caused by sweat
The harm it causes: toxicity and infertility of aquatic life, re-ingested by humans through consumption
What it’s used for: a catalyst for producing polyester
The harm it causes: in high quantities, it can act like arsenic. Overexposure causes various health issues ranging from digestive to respiratory. The amount in children’s clothing is not so high as to be toxic for the child, but the clothes still release the chemical into the environment.
Yikes! To avoid these chemicals and more, read label ingredients, and look for stamps that say 100% organic and/or GOTS certified.
Check out Safer Chemicals--an organization devoted to protecting families from toxic chemicals--for more information.