The phrase ‘dressed to kill’ has taken on new meaning in the 21st century. Especially when you consider the materials use to make garments are heavily pressed with a variety of toxic chemicals including, formaldehyde.
Raise your hand if you would like embalming solution on your clothes … I didn’t think so.
Garments and textiles come from all over the globe, and pass through many hands so the manufacturing process and regulations aren’t known by the average consumer. Today, it’s normal for many pieces of our wardrobe to be made in third world countries – which can be pretty flexible with health code laws. In fact, there are up to 2,000 different chemicals in processing some fabrics – many of which are known to cause cancer.
Think twice before your next purchase of clothing
Finished clothing is often covered in formaldehyde to keep them from wrinkling or becoming mildewed during shipping – with up to 900 times the recommended safe level of formaldehyde being shipped to brand name clothiers from factories in China and Southeast Asia.
The top 5 toxic clothing features to avoid
Do your clothes say ‘no iron’? The chemical additives used to achieve the no-iron crease-free properties of a garment are known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). These chemicals are also used in Teflon, school uniforms, waterproof mattresses and clothing.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that PFCs are causing cancer. Chemicals classified as PFC are associated with cancers of the prostate, pancreas, liver and bladder.
PFCs aren’t stored in body fat; however the half-life, which is the amount of time it takes for 50% of the chemical to leave the body, can be several years.
Do you own ‘pre-shrunk’ clothing? Consumers should raise their awareness about pre-shrunk materials inasmuch as formaldehyde is the main chemical used to arrest shrinkage in fabrics. Formaldehyde is said to be trapped by heat in the fabric itself and is linked to a 30% increase in lung cancer and skin irritations.
In addition, formaldehyde is used to make the claim that the garment is anti-cling, ant-static, waterproof, perspiration proof, mildew resistant and chorine resistant. Another use is to fix the design and prevent the running of the dyes used in printing on the fabric.
Most governments restrict formaldehyde levels in clothing, but (as you might expect) not in the United States. One of the worst offenders is China – who dominates much of the market.
Are your clothes ‘moth-repellant’, ‘stain-resistant’ or ‘fire retardant’? These types of fabrics use the chemical additive PBDE or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and are highly toxic due to their ability to accumulate in the tissues of every living organism.
Some mothers were surprised to have traces of PBDE in their breast milk – which of course produced harmful effects for their nursing infants.
These chemical substances tend to adhere to human fat cells and could be detrimental to a child’s brain development. The most common health disorder caused by PBDE is thyroid related – which affects humans by causing hormonal imbalances that can lead to other diseases.
Do you own ‘acrylic fibers’? Textiles made from acrylic fibers are produced by using the chemical polycrylonitriles. The EPA’s fact sheet contains information about the effects of these chemicals as similar to cyanide – if inhaled. Workers exposed to high concentrations of this chemical compound experience anemia, nausea, leukocytosis, mild jaundice and renal effects.
Are your clothes colored with blue dyes? This color may look regal but it puts you at high risk for contact dermatitis – especially dark blue, brown, and black synthetic clothing. It’s important to note laundering does not reverse that risk. Disperse Blue 1 is classified as a human carcinogen – since it produces high levels of malignant tumors in lab animals.
Can certain clothes cause chronic illness?
Medical studies have shown that athletic apparel using synthetic fiber causes muscle fatigue. In addition, skin reactions such as itching, blisters, hives and welts have been reported as well as headaches and brain fog.
More serious side effects are widespread muscle aches as in fibromyalgia and respiratory symptoms including, bronchitis, asthma, allergies and sinus infections. These are the more immediate reactions, but the long term dangers are where the real problems lurk.
A guide to buying healthy clothes
When possible, buy clothing made from organic fibers – that are derived from farms that do not use pesticides and are produced without chemicals. Avoiding garments made from polyesters, acetate blends, dark colors such as black, brown, violet and blue.
If you can – buy only natural fibers, such as hemp and organic cotton, flax, silk and wool. Some other high-quality materials include alpaca, angora, cashmere, mohair, ramie and jute. Obviously, when at all possible, choose organic for clothing closest to your skin such as underwear, sleepwear and camisoles – then build out your wardrobe, as you replace items in your closet.
Keep in mind, it’s always wise to look for the country of origin and the type of fabric used. Remember consumers are advised to wash and dry garments from synthetic fabrics at least three times before usage. And, of course, always use an earth-friendly, chemical free laundry detergent.
About the author:
Jonathan Landsman is the host of NaturalHealth365.com, the NaturalNews Talk Hour – a free, weekly health show and the NaturalNews Inner Circle – a monthly subscription to the brightest minds in natural health and healing.