Everything from the fabric to the dyes could potentially be toxic or unsafe — especially for small children or infants. Some sources quote thousands of chemicals used in fashion and footwear presenting hazard for consumers, workers, and the environment.
When it comes to garments that touch a large area of the skin, it’s a good idea to play it safe. Nevermind the effect on the environment. The fashion space does not have a regulator, so all we can do is go by third party standards.
A WORD ON COTTON
It has come to light that the cotton we wear and use in our daily lives for feminine care, make up etc. may not be as great as it looks. We need to start paying attention to not only what we eat, but also what we wear. Throughout the process of producing this white puffy goodness, it was first genetically modified, then sprayed with pesticides to earn its reputation for one of the most contaminated crops. “In the US, it typically takes a third of a pound of toxic agricultural chemicals to produce a pound of cotton” according to the Organic Consumers Association — that is enough to make a T-shirt. Consequently, carcinogens such as Roundup end up in what we wear.
Then cotton is the bleached with more harmful chemicals and in the final stage, it is dyed with synthetic dyes to produce the beautiful colors we love on the “cheap” — at a cost that our health and environment will pay. Because cotton is not considered a “food crop,” nothing limits the spraying of super-toxic chemicals. Those chemicals end up in our clothing and touch the largest organ — our skin.
The worst impact is for women because feminine care products are considered “medical devices” and manufacturers are exempt from having to list their ingredients. What can end up touching the most sensitive skin is a drenched in toxins product. Dr. Mercola has several suggestions on safe products that include brands such as Seventh Generation, Glad Rags, and Organyc.
Oeko-Tex Textile Safety Standards
One organization that provides standards is the Oeko Tex. Similarly to the USDA which provides “organic” standards for food, the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology (which also calls itself Oeko-Tex for short) provides safety standards for textiles — including environmental safety and human safety. Wikipedia actually breaks it down to digestible bites while the OekoTex.com website has more info on the labels to look for.
Global Organic Textile Standard
Also provides textile processing standards — these include ecological and social criteria. The goal of the organization is to provide credible assurance to the end consumer. The Global-standard.org website provides detailed information.
RETAILERS WHO GOT IT RIGHT
Below are a few retailers that care about what their clothes are made of:
Blue canoe: Eco-conscious organic clothing made in the USA. The high-quality fabrics feel amazing on the skin. Cotton and bamboo grown without harmful pesticides or chemical fertilizers paired with non-toxic dyes garantie soft and sustainable fabrics.
prAna: Sustainable clothing and accessories that provide a feel-good experience for your body and soul. The company partners with companies and factories that adhere to safety and efficacy standards. Look for items made of organic cotton, recycled wool, or hemp.
pact: Incredible organic cotton from Fair Trade CertifiedTM factories is part of the reason this company is on this list. No toxic dyes or pesticides were used in the process. You can find their products in Whole Foods.
More companies: Patagonia, Under the Canopy, Fibershed, Savory Institute, TS Designs, Maggie’s Organics, Indigenous, Hempy’s, and others to come. Send us an email if you have additional recommendations.