Are There Toxic Chemicals in the Clothes You're Wearing Right Now?

Image courtesy Greenpeace Detox campaign.

Clothing production is one of the most toxic businesses on the planet. And with the vast preponderance of our textiles made and sewn in countries with few environmental regulations (and even if they have them, they may not be enforced), that means that for years now, the chemicals used to dye, finish and otherwise process fabrics have been polluting freshwater resources in countries where clothes are made: India, China, Bangladesh, and the Philippenes, to name just the most common places.

Greenpeace's Detox campaign has been working to fight this problem. According to the campaign's site: "Together we're challenging some of the world's most popular clothing brands to work with their suppliers and eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals into our water."

But besides toxins flowing into the world's drinking water, which is bad enough, it turns out that our clothes are also holding on to some of those toxins, even by the time they make it into our closets. According to Greenpeace's video below, "2/3 of clothing items tested by Greenpeace contain hazardous chemicals. And when these garments are washed, they release these substances into the rivers lakes and seas of the world. This makes us all part of the problem. But we can also be part of the solution." And, it's not a huge leap to understand, if we are wearing those clothes next to our skin, we are getting a dose of those toxins too. Right?

Yup. According to a 2012 Guardian article, "A fortnight ago a shipment of children's shoes from China intercepted in the U.S. port of Seattle was found to contain three times the acceptable level of lead. Even Poland's official Euro 2012 shirt was pulled up for containing excessive levels of organotin compounds (which help with sweat/breathability). When Greenpeace tested for the top six chemical nasties in clothing in 2011, including phthalates (plastic softeners), and formaldehyde (frequently used to treat clothing to ward off mold during shipping), it found 14 out of 17 retailers sold products that exceeded 'safe' levels."

As the video above aptly states: "Beautiful fashion shouldn't cost the Earth."