Why the Chemicals in Our Clothing are Threatening Our Health and Environment

by admin

Many of the objects we interact with on a daily basis are treated with chemicals. However, some of these chemicals, known as “forever chemicals,” are causing significant issues for both humans and the environment. 

From car seats to coffee makers, many of the products we use are coated with man-made chemicals to serve various functions. While some of these chemicals are harmless, others are toxic and persistent.

Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” are a class of hazardous chemicals that do not break down in the environment and linger in our bodies. These chemicals have been found in everyday items such as water bottles, nonstick cookware, food packaging, clothing, menstrual products, dental floss, cosmetics, and even toilet paper. They are typically used to provide resistance to water, heat, and grease but pose health risks with repeated exposure.

The Impact of Forever Chemicals in Clothing

PFAS have been detected in clothing items, including popular brands like Lululemon and Athleta, which produce rain jackets, shirts, hiking pants, yoga pants, and sports bras. According to a report by Toxic-Free Future, around 72% of products labeled as “water-resistant” or “stain-resistant” tested positive for PFAS.

Unfortunately, the issue goes beyond clothing and extends to our intimate garments, such as lingerie and underwear. These undergarments are often made with fabric compositions that have been treated with synthetic chemicals, including PFAS, to enhance their functionality. This not only has environmental implications but also raises concerns about chemical absorption through the skin when wearing these products.

Undergarments act as a second skin, and the chemicals present in the fabrics can potentially penetrate through the skin. As we sweat, these chemicals can be drawn out of the fabric and absorbed into our bodies, presenting alarming health risks.

Prolonged skin exposure to PFAS in clothing has been associated with various health issues, including cancer, decreased fertility, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, and harm to the immune system. Brands like Thinx and activewear companies have faced lawsuits and legal notices due to the presence of PFAS in their products, highlighting the lack of transparency and potential dangers of these chemicals.

Although some states have started passing laws to prohibit the use of PFAS in certain products, federal bills in the US aimed at regulating these chemicals have yet to gain traction in Congress. Meanwhile, European countries are proposing extensive bans on PFAS, but the impact of these measures on existing clothing items is limited.

Avoiding Forever Chemicals in Clothing

If you’re concerned about the presence of forever chemicals in clothing, there are steps you can take to minimize exposure and support efforts to remove them from fashion supply chains.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggests assuming that clothing items contain PFAS, especially those marketed as “waterproof,” “stain-repellent,” or “dirt-repellant.” Websites like PFAS Central provide lists of brands and products that claim to be PFAS-free. Additionally, organizations like the Ecology Center offer DIY tests to determine if clothing contains PFAS by observing how water droplets interact with the fabric.

To minimize exposure, consider opting for clothing made from natural fabrics or certified organic clothing that meets the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The GOTS certification ensures that clothing meets strict criteria for chemical use, including a ban on flame retardants, PFAS, and toxic dyes.

Brands can also choose to use natural dyes and adhere to banned chemical lists, such as those established by OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100, which prohibits PFAS in textiles.

If unsure about the presence of PFAS in clothing, reaching out to brands and demanding transparency regarding their chemical processes can be an effective way to drive change. Environmental activist alliances like Safer States track restrictions on toxic chemicals and pressure brands to remove harmful substances from their products. Taking action locally and supporting these initiatives can make a difference.

Overall, being knowledgeable and making conscious choices can help reduce exposure to forever chemicals in clothing.

Also, exploring nontoxic furniture and cookware guides can provide further resources for brands that prioritize safer chemical use.

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