Fashion and Toxic Chemicals, Part 1: Is your closet full of toxic chemicals?

We wear clothes everyday and they are a life necessity. However, our clothing can be a way in which we are exposed to toxic chemicals. Read on to learn more about which fabrics to avoid and which fabrics are safer for you to use.

We all think about the clothing we wear.

Sometimes we dress for comfort and sometimes we dress up for a certain look. But have you ever dressed for your health?
When choosing what to put on your body, it’s important to be aware of what goes in it as well. While clothing can act as a barrier between our skin and the outside world, it may also be a source of toxic exposure. 
Everyday toxic chemicals are everywhere, even in your clothes! These chemicals can cause a lot more damage than your reputation as a fashionista. 

Phthalates in Clothing

Phthalates are chemicals in plastic that make it flexible. They are also found in glues, detergents, perfumes, soaps, raincoats, and hairspray. Unfortunately, continued exposure to phthalates can cause a variety of adverse health effects. These health effects can be serious, including breast cancer and infertility

A study done in 2019 found shocking evidence of phthalates when analyzing infant cotton clothing. 

Cotton easily absorbs chemicals, including phthalates, from our environment, and can transfer them to our skin. Washing your clothes can help remove some of these chemicals.

The results of the study suggest phthalates in infant clothing may cause harm. Infants are very susceptible to the harmful effects of phthalate exposure. Exposure in infants and children has been linked to allergies and lower IQ.  

BPA in Clothing

BPA, or bisphenol A, is also commonly used in clothes. It is involved in the manufacturing of many synthetic fibers. These materials include polyester, nylon, and spandex

Exposure to BPA is linked to many harmful health effects, including

  • Obesity

  • Diabetes

  • Breast cancer 

  • Prostate cancer

  • Reproductive diseases

  • Infertility

In 2016, researchers found high levels of BPA in textiles and infant clothing items. 

BPA exposure from clothing may be caused by:

Athleisure and Toxic Chemicals

Athleisure can be flattering and comfortable to wear during a workout, but research suggests it may cause harm. In 2016, popular brands such as Nike, Espirit, and Victoria’s Secret were not taking the necessary steps to detox their supply chains

Since then, Nike has made statements promising to phase out some of their toxic chemicals, such as PFCs. PFCs cause environmental concerns including greenhouse gas emissions. By the end of 2021, Nike aims to replace PFC-based finishes with less toxic chemicals. Hopefully, all sportswear brands will follow Nike’s lead towards creating safer, less toxic clothing items.

What can you do?

While some clothing brands are striving towards more sustainable and less toxic products, there are steps you, as a consumer, can take to help as well! 

Get tested! It can be very difficult to tell if your clothes contain toxic chemicals. But you can learn your chemical exposures by using a Million Marker test kit to learn what’s inside!