Toxic Threads: 5 Dangerous Chemicals In The Clothes You Are Wearing

By Jenna Amatulli | Huffington Post 

Heavy Metal Toxicity-compressed

Fast fashion is wildly enticing.


A super-cute skirt for $20? A graphic tee for $10? Yes, yes, we will crack into our paychecks for these. But, as with anything, what’s the true cost? And what is this stuff we love actually made of?

Turns out, some really gross stuff. Now, you may be thinking: “So what? My clothes are made of weird chemicals. What does that matter to me?”

Related Article: Learn How Successful Fashion Model Lily Cole Is Making A Positive Difference Leading The ‘Gift Economy’

Chemicals can permeate your skin, which is constantly eliminating and absorbing ― all day, every day. So, things that go on your skin can also go in your body. If you are wearing clothing coated in toxic chemicals, it’s possible that you’re absorbing a small amount of these chemicals through your skin and your body must process and eliminate them.

While it’s hard to find conclusive evidence that links toxins in clothing directly to health problems, the studies that do exist are disquieting: some of the chemicals in garments we wear daily have been found to cause cancer in rats, they can cause cancer for the workers who work with them all day and can be damaging in higher concentrations. In the short term, these chemicals can cause allergic reactions and irritation.

While that doesn’t mean your favorite shirt is giving you cancer, it’s enough to make us wonder why all of our clothing is full of these substances to begin with. Take formaldehyde for example, which is often found on items that claim to be crease resistant. According to a report from the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, formaldehyde in clothing leads to eye and nose irritation and allergic reactions on skin.

And the thousands of chemicals that are present in our clothes didn’t just end up there now. They’ve been there for years.

In a 2012 report by Greenpeace entitled “Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up,” it was confirmed that major brands ― like Zara, Levi’s, Mango, Calvin Klein and H&M ― were making and selling clothes containing hazardous chemicals.

Related Article: Help Stop The Abuse Of Children In The Fashion Industry

So, what are these toxins exactly and what fabrics are they in? Let’s break down what they are and how they could affect you:

1. Acrylic fabrics have dimethylformamide in them, which the CDC says, after interacting directly with skin “can cause liver damage and other adverse health effects.” These effects have caused the people who manufacture acrylic fabrics to have to wear protective clothing just to touch the clothing they’re making.

2. Azo dyes are very common synthetic dyes used for coloring clothes, leather and textiles. They also release amines ― a compound derived from ammonia ― that increased the risk of bladder cancer among German dye factory workers who had regular exposure to it. Instead look for products made with natural dyes.

3. Phthalates are found in a lot of fast fashion, specifically DEHP and DINP, and sometimes BBP (you aren’t likely to see any of them listed on a label, so you don’t even need to remember these acronyms). They’re found in things like plastic raincoats, artificial leather and waterproof clothing. Phthalates are endocrine disrupters and have been linked to adverse reproductive effects in male rodents. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has not determined whether phthalates are carcinogenic to humans.

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