Parents understand the important role that they play in the everyday lives of their children. Part of that role is to protect them from as much as possible, even from something as innocuous as their clothing. You might be asking yourself, “Their clothing? Why would my kids need protection from that?”, but the truth of the matter is that the excess of cheap apparel, and the superfluity of unnecessary foreign manufacturing has grown exponentially, resulting in toxic clothing and man made fibers of polyester, acetate, rayon, and nylon that will not only poison our streams but hurt our bodies and our children’s bodies.
The Change Of An Industry
A short background on the subject matter might be in order as we continue this journey. Essentially clothing used to be made with plant-based fibers, such as cotton, flax, banana, linen, hemp, and wool; and dyed with the beautiful colors created by both plant and Earth, such as marigold flowers, and red matter root. When consumer demands increased along with the industry’s greed, there was a shift – moving away from plant-based fabrics and dyes, because they were too costly for this new business model and were limiting the production numbers. Strangely this was not enough for commercial companies that thrive on growth and sales every day, so without consumer awareness, chemicals and toxins were added to clothing manufacturing for cheaper quality and faster production. This resulted in cheaper price points to drive more product, and more accessibility to consumers without the knowledge that what they were now buying would poison their bodies.
Cheaper to produce, brighter, more colorfast, and easy to apply to fabric, these new dyes changed the playing field for the textile industry. According to the Wall Street Journal, imported clothing in the US is one of the few products whose pricing has decreased in cost by 25% since 1995 instead of inflating. There is always a reason for cheaper pricing, and unfortunately this one is linked to our health. We are now beginning to see the results of these changes in clothing manufacturing.
Risking Our Health, And That Of Our Children
Although many mothers are aware of the bleach in diapers and the resulting diaper rash, they are not aware of the chemicals found in clothing and how they effect our skin. The body’s most breathable living organ,the skin, was not designed to be covered in clothing. If a parent places synthetic fabrics with toxic dyes onto the fresh baby skin of an infant, one would typically see the resulting effects appear in the form of a rash or allergic reaction. Bleach, formaldehyde (which is a carcinogen linked to cancer), dioxin another carcinogen, and toxic heavy metals such as chrome, copper, and zinc are a few of the many toxins found in today’s commercial brands of children’s clothing.
CNN reported that several years ago they used “bio monitoring” technology to test for chemical legacy in infants and children. It was discovered that children had 18 times the potential harmful chemicals in their bodies than their parents’ generation.
Dr. Leo Trasande, Assistant Director of the Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Health and the Environment in New York City notes, “we are in an epidemic of environmentally mediated disease among American children today.” He adds, “rates of asthma, childhood cancers, birth defects and developmental disorders have exponentially increased, and it can’t be explained by changes in the human genome. So what has changed? All the chemicals we’re being exposed to.”
Bioaccumulation is the name given to the accumulation of toxins in our bodies, and everyone has different thresholds in regards to the amounts of toxins we can accrue before our health is affected and shown by the body. Exposure to certain toxins for five years in one person, could be equal to a lifetime of exposure for another person. These toxic agents that accumulate have been discovered in food, cleaning products, diapers, skin care products and clothing. Of these categories, clothing is the last frontier for toxin awareness. Food-coloring additives that have been outlawed in the food industry for decades due to their link to cancer are still being used in clothing dyes, plastisol inks are used for printing those cute baby graphics, and bleach continues to be used to get those pretty whites, white. As many people who are not aware of these toxins, are also not made aware that these toxins never wash out of their clothes, and that heat opens the pores resulting in toxin off-gassing which the wearer consumes. It is time for change. Be proactive in your search for non-bleached, un-dyed, natural fabric options for you and your kids. Stay away from printed pieces, and if dyed, make sure it is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified.