100% cotton may not be 100% safe


Earlier this week I told you about the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and just how prevalent they are in our daily lives. They’re literally everywhere — in our food supply, cosmetics, cleansers, and even cash register receipts.

The unfortunate reality is that we’ll never escape EDCs altogether. But knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can try to avoid them.

So today, I want to tell you about yet another, little-known source of EDCs…fabric.

Most of us don’t even think twice before we pull on our favorite T-shirt, or slip into a new set of “500 thread count” sheets. Especially if you’re like me, and opt for cotton whenever possible. Most of my shirts, sheets, and towels are 100% cotton. I prefer cotton   not only because it feels good to the touch, but also because cotton is natural substance.

But it’s easy to forget that cotton is a cash crop — just like corn. And as such, it gets the same treatment. For instance, before it’s harvested, commercial cotton crops get doused with pesticides and fertilizers.

And unfortunately, when it comes to cotton, that’s just the beginning of the chemical treatment.

After the cotton crop gets harvested, it’s tainted even further with chemicals like bleach, sizing, dye, straightening, anti-stain, odor resistant, and anti-shrink agents.

But I’m not even done yet.

Let’s not forget to add fireproofing, mothproofing, and static and wrinkle reducing to the toxic mix.

And to make matters worse, some of these chemicals are applied with heat, which bonds them forever into the fibers.

So what can you do?

First of all, look for the following buzzwords on the label or packaging:

  • Wrinkle-free
  • Easy Care
  • Waterproof
  • Perspiration-proof
  • Moth-proof
  • Antistatic
  • Chlorine-resistant

These may all sound like good, convenient features – and they’re certainly marketed that way. But if you read between the lines, what these phrases are really telling you is that those sheets or slacks or shirts also come with a heavy dose of chemicals. So invest in a good iron, and save yourself from the potentially harmful consequences of an “easy care” wardrobe.

Beyond that, always make sure to wash any linens or items of clothing before use. Although keep in mind even that may not be a fool-proof solution.

According to a recent study conducted in Sweden, some chemicals remain on clothing even after it’s washed. While most of the substances were washed off (going into our water supply, which is an issue for another day), the researchers still found high concentrations of three chemicals: quinolones (how about a dose of antibiotics with that T-shirt?), aromatic amines, (which are known carcinogens), and benzothiazoles, which are found in rubber and can cause contact dermatitis.

Which is why it’s also worthwhile to seek out organic fabric. It’s getting easier to find in regular retail stores, but you can also search online for clothes and bedding made from organic materials. Two websites that can get you started are theultimategreenstore.com and ecofashionworld.com.