Team Canada hockey jerseys may be toxic as well as ugly

team canada shirts
© Team Canada

Many Canadians are complaining about the design of the Sochi 2014 hockey sweaters for Team Canada (or is it team Petro-Canada, after an oil company with graphics that look very similar?) The Globe and Mail calls them a Fashion Crime, but notes that they are lighter and "the fact the sweaters are made from recycled pop and water bottles will be enough of a selling point."

© Team Canada

However, that may not be such a great selling point; there is some concern that antimony, the catalyst used to make most PET water and pop bottles, can leach out of fabrics. Antimony is a serious carcinogen and "is toxic to the heart, lungs, liver and skin." According to O Ecotextiles,

We do know that antimony leaches from PET bottles into the water or soda inside the bottles. The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says that the antimony in fabric is very tightly bound and does not expose people to antimony. So if you want to take the government’s word for it, antimony in PET is not a problem for human health – at least directly in terms of exposure from fabrics which contain antimony. (Toxics crusader William McDonough has been on antimony’s case for years, however, and takes a much less sanguine view of antimony. )

Indeed, Bill McDonough won't certify recycled PET fabrics under Cradle to Cradle, even when they are made into carpet, let alone hockey sweaters. He writes in Cradle to Cradle:

That polyester shirt and that water bottle are both examples of what we call products plus: as a buyer you got the item or service you wanted, plus additives you didn't ask for and didn't know were included and that may be harmful to you and your loved ones. (Maybe shirt labels should read: Product contains toxic dyes and catalysts. Don't work up a sweat or they will leach onto your skin.)

Writing in TreeHugger, Warren quoted Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard:

We're constrained by the fact that some technologies don't exist yet. Like we make a lot of products out of recycled soda-pop bottles -- polyester and fleece. Well, those bottles have a carcinogenic heavy metal, antimony, and we are working with the mills to take the antimony out before they make the fiber.

Of course, the industry says there is nothing to worry about. They may well be right. But studies have shown that antimony leaches from bottles at high temperatures. One study noted that "Summertime temperatures inside of cars, garages, and enclosed storage areas can exceed 65 degrees C in Arizona, and thus could promote antimony leaching from PET bottled waters.... the use of alternative types of plastics that do not leach antimony should be considered, especially for climates where exposure to extreme conditions can promote antimony release from PET plastics."

Nobody works harder and probably sweats more than Team Canada. Are those the kinds of extreme conditions that might promote antimony release from their jerseys? Should they worry about this?

Tags: Canada | Chemicals | Plastics

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