Fabrics That Damage The Environment
A Quick Guide On What Labels To Avoid.
As we get older, we become more aware of the things in our surroundings that could harm us. Growing up without any allergies or problems, it was a surprising change for me to suddenly go from not worrying about labels to constantly checking my boyfriend’s food for any shrimp, or my best friend’s drinks and cleansing products for any mint. I found myself checking all types of soaps before purchasing, making sure they had labels like “non-comedogenic” and “hypoallergenic”; and hair dyes for words like “vegan” and “cruelty free”.
But for all the things that we double-check, we tend to overlook the one thing that is constantly surrounding us and touching our skin: fabric. From towels that dry us off after a bath, to the clothes we change into, and the sheets that surround us at the end of the day, we are exposed to so many different types of fabrics! We don’t really think about the impact it has on us, let alone on the environment.
Fabric Of Reality
Humans used to create cloth from natural fibers like cotton, hemp, wool, silk, and cashmere for different purposes.
Check the tag on your shirt.
You might find words like polyester, acrylic, acetate, rayon, and nylon on most of your labels. And most of your slacks and blazers have been treated to keep them wrinkle- free; some of your clothes are treated to be stain-resistant, static-resistant. The list goes on…
It’s much easier now to pick an outfit, throw it on, and leave without worrying about any wrinkles, fabric problems, and more. But these synthetic fabrics have been chemically treated. This means they contain a lot of toxins that could affect your health, and definitely affect that of the environment.
List of Toxic Fabrics
This is usually used for drapes, blouses, home furnishings, and linings. But did you know acetate is also used for cigarette filters. It’s benefits include drying fast and feeling soft. It is also offered in a wide variety of colors and lusters. However since it doesn’t accept normal dyes that are used for materials like cotton, manufacturers need to create special chemically-treated dyes.
This fabric itself is made from cellulose reacting to purified cellulose from wood pulp with acetic acid and acetic anhydride in the presence of sulfuric acid. This is followed by several more steps that include partial hydrolysis, being dissolved in acetone for extrusion, and more.
A good non-chemical wood pulp fabric to look for is: Tencel
You’ll find acrylic fibers in thermal underwear, sweaters, carpets, tents, and bags. It’s lightweight, mildew and odor resistant, and provides insulation without being heavy.
But, the main ingredient of this fiber is acrylonitrile which is also known as vinyl cyanide. It’s a carcinogen that targets the central nervous system. This enters our bodies by being absorbed through our skin whenever we wear acrylic fabrics.
Aside from being toxic (it can cause cancer), it is not readily biodegradable and isn’t easy to recycle. Their plastic counterparts are just as dangerous as they are highly flammable.
Try switching to all organic Merino Wool for the same insulation and odor-resistance. As well as for its biodegradable properties.
If you’re an outdoors-ey person, you’re familiar with nylon as it’s used in clothes made for camping, and parachutes. Nylon has also become a common replacement for clothes that are normally created with materials like silk.
It’s a polymer that’s made from petroleum that gives a permanent chemical finish. Manufacturing this nylon is energy and water intensive. It also produces nitrous oxide which is a greenhouse grass that’s more potent than carbon dioxide by about 300 times more.
Don’t settle for nylon when Chinese silk has the same properties but is entirely more environmentally friendly and feels better!
This is the most popular synthetic fiber of choice and is also one of the worst of the synthetic fibers that you could ever consider buying.
Yes, it’s durable, water repellant, and wrinkle resistant. It’s used for important things like diapers, sanitary pads, upholstery, and more.
But polyester is a terminal product that starts off as crude oil and follows a long chain of toxic and very reactive precursors. Most of them are carcinogens and all of them are poisonous. It’s a burden to the environment as well as your health. Polyester may be soft and smooth but it’s really just plastic that’s been treated with so many toxins to make it flame retardant and comfortable to use.
There’s so many other fabrics you could be using that’s better for your body and the environment. Try Japanese linen which is smooth, durable, and made from flax seed.
Also known as ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘ethical fashion’, these clothes are created from fabrics made out of recycled materials and grown fiber crops. Sustainable clothing is rising in popularity and people are becoming more and more aware of it. This means that there is a bigger opportunity for small companies who have been striving to get their sustainable clothing into your closets.
Now that you know just how toxic the process with which the fabrics you’re used to undergo, it’s time for you to make a conscious choice to rid yourself of the risks these types of clothing bring to your body. Many of the toxins get in your system through your skin, which is in contact with these clothes everyday. You must make sure that you’re putting yourself out of harm’s way. And as you do that, you’re playing a part in helping put the planet out of harm’s way as well. So spread the word and show your bodies, and the earth, some much deserved love.
Alysson Carter is an avid volunteer of many causes. She started out with petitions connected to saving the earth and raising awareness to recycle more. But recently she has become aware of the struggles that recovering addicts are going through, what with the stigma put on them and people’s unwillingness to help. As a result, she’s doing more volunteer work in rehab centers and writing about it in her cocaine rehab blog.
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