A or BIf you pull on an article of clothing, let’s say a 100% cotton, blue T-shirt with some kind of print on it, are there chemicals lurking in the fabric? Unfortunately, yes, although they might not be what you’d think.

Rather than coming from the cotton itself, most of the toxins in the T-shirt come from what happens long after the pesticides have been sprayed on the crops. Ever wonder what the “new” smell is on clothing, a smell that sometimes even sticks around after a washing? 


Cotton and the Environment
About 25 percent of the world’s insecticide use and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticide goes to cotton crops. In 2003, that amounted to about 55 million pounds of pesticides being sprayed on 12.8 million acres of cotton, according to the Organic Trade Association. Some of these chemicals are considered to be the most toxic chemicals in the world. The health risks of pesticide exposure include birth defects, reproductive disorders and weaker immune systems.

organic apparel
Your favorite shirt might contain one or more of the following chemicals: 
  • Azo dyes. These synthetic colorants may release carcinogenic amines (ammonia derivatives), and have been recognized as human bladder carcinogens. Azo dyes are also environmental pollutants.
  • Formaldehyde. This known carcinogen is used prevent clothing from wrinkling. Many popular brands of baby clothes are shown to contain formaldehyde in concentrations as high as 18,000 ppm (parts per million). Supposedly, exposure up to 20 ppm is safe for babies, but I’d rather have zero, thank you!
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylates. These cheap, hormone-disrupting surfactants are sometimes used by the textile industry, and wind up in our water supply when we launder clothing that contains them.
  • Perfluorochemicals. PFCs work beautifully to repel water and stains, but they also break down into a toxic blood contaminant that’s linked with tumor growth and reproductive problems. PFCs are found in wrinkle-, stain-, and water-resistant clothing items, including those with Scotchgard and Gore-Tex tags.
  • Phthalates. Yes, these notorious hormone-disruptors are even in our clothing, often found in either in the dyes or in plastisol prints.
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