Hazardous chemicals in your home came with a warning, ‘this is harmful to your health when ingested.’  Clothes, however, appear without any warning. Our skin is the largest organ we have, you couldn’t possibly imagine what our skin absorbs through our clothes. Yet the fashion industry is not sharing this information on their labels. Let’s face it if all the ingredients were listed on that stylish dress or shirt you purchased from H&M, Forever 21 or Topshop. Would you buy it? Probably not. Here is a list of the 10 hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry you absorb daily;

1. NONYLPHENOL EXTHOXYLATES & NONYLPHENOL

These agents are commonly used in wool and leather. They can be used in a variety of fabrics such as leathers, PVC, synthetic fabrics and plastics. NONYLPHENOL EXTHOXYLATES is used as a detergent for removing grease from leather hides. It’s used for dispersing dyes in our clothes. Think about all the garments you have with colours including prints. The gummy film on silks is removed using this agent. Down and feather padding uses NONYLPHENOL EXTHOXYLATES because it’s cheaper than feathers.  Found in jelly sandals, any plastic soles or shoes. You will find this used in a large amount of fashion and home goods in the cheap turn-it out-at record-breaking-speed fashion and home goods brands.  Disruptive to estrogen levels, fertility and the development of sexual organs especially in children.

2. AZO DYES

Natural dyes again cut into the profit margin of large companies. Therefore using AZO DYES a synthetic form saves money but is bad for the consumer. This dye easily rubs off on the skin releasing a chemical called aromatic amines. They have been known to cause cancer. Used in almost all synthetic fabrics, leathers, and makeup. If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to makeup this is probably the culprit. Itchy clothing can also be a sign that you are reacting to this toxic dye. AZO dyes are used in footwear as well as clothing. It has replaced natural dyes as the most popular dye category in the fashion industry. The clothing that has benefited the most is the resurgence of the denim industry. We used to benefit from the natural dye found in the leaves of plants for denim, but AZO DYES has replaced natural indigo.

3. HEAVY METALS

Heavy metals include cadmium, mercury, lead, and antimony can be found in jewellery, cosmetics, and some dyes. Cadmium is used in jewellery marketed to teenagers. It’s also used in the dye process where red, orange, green and yellows dyes are found.It is a cheaper way to produce jewellery that looks and acts like a metal. The problem with Cadmium, it is deadly when induced or absorbed over long periods of time. Whatever you do, do not let a baby suck on jewellery bought at any of these fast-fashion box brands. The younger the wearer the more vulnerable.

hazardous chemicals

4. FORMALDEHYDE

Have you ever bought a clothing item that smelt a little strange but you couldn`t figure out what it was? It was probably formaldehyde. A brand new garment shouldn’t smell of chemicals, should it? Your brand new shirt with the great pattern smells strange. Formaldehyde was probably used to prevent the dyes from running. Other garments using formaldehyde are; waterproof garments, anti-cling, anti-static, moth and mildew resistant.  Hazardous chemicals in the fashion Industry are a cheap substitute for kinder, natural ingredients. The U.S. has not restricted the levels of formaldehyde in clothing. Beware of Made in China labels, they are the largest offenders of using formaldehyde. Look out for these sleeper names: Methanal, Morbicid Acid, Metheylene Acid, Formalin, Oxymetheylene.

5. PHTHALATES

Used in softening, dyeing, and printing artificial leather, PVC, and rubber. Phthalates allow artificial materials to be molded with cracking. They make plastics soft along with increased flexibility. Phthalates are used in plastic sleeves, buttons, and printed artificial leathers. How to tell if this chemical has been used? There is a strong plastic smell present. You’ll find this in jelly shoes, plastic clothing, and any synthetic and natural leathers with a shiny coating.  Europe has deemed this chemical toxic to reproduction because it can hinder fertility. The increased low sperm counts in men in their thirties have provoked a lifestyle study to determine why. Phthalates have been found in blood, breast milk, and human tissue. Cancer has been linked to the absorption phthalates.

6. CHLOROBENZENES

Chlorobenzenes is a solvent used to make dyes. It belongs to a group of chemicals ending with benzenes. The worst of the bunch is Hexachlorobenzenes. Known as one of the most toxic hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry. It disrupts hormones from working properly. Benzenes affect the thyroid, nervous system and the liver.  Pentachlorbenzene and HCB have been flagged as priority hazardous substances. Listed as a restricted organic pollutants under the Stockholm Convention. Scheduled for reduction and eventually eliminated in Europe. Benzenes are still accepted in the U.S.

As a consumer who wants to live a decent life. You’re not doing yourself any favours by shopping at any fast-fashion company. Hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry are poisoning us as a consumer. Cancer societies and organisations can give you a list of toxic chemicals that are found in everyday products such as fashion. Get your clothes tested at a lab in your area to find out what is really in your clothes.

Photo by Winter_1983

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