BEAUTYCALYPSE is of course a clean beauty journey. Let me invite you to this Fashion Sidequest, for one simple reason: toxic doesn’t stop at the shampoo bottle.
Being a health fanatic or a Bridget-Jonesy type – your body is burdened with 500 to 700 toxic chemicals. Let that sink. Ha ha. 😦
Now, our bodies sure are designed to remove toxins, but since not all chemicals have been properly tested and we are collectively washed in nasty chemicals on a daily basis, it would be rather nice to lower the exposure, don’t you think?
Granted, most toxins lurk in processed or pesticide/antiobiotics-contaminated food; in cigarettes and alcohol (“No shit, Sherlock…“); in the air (carbon monoxide) and in gasoline (try to hold your breath while you tank up your car – not likely, right); inks and adhesives; anything made of (crude oil based) plastic/polymers like take-away food containers and coffee cups, sex toys, plastic food containers*, non-stick coatings in pans (hey crafters, polymer clay?); scented products (laundry liquids, car fresheners, room sprays); personal care products and cosmetics**… So, how does fashion fit in, except that smoking cigarettes and drinking champagne is a widely-known habit in fashion’s chic elite circles?
Petrochemicals in fabrics: Well, what comes to mind are plastic fibres (Nylon, Polyester). So let’s think properly. If you wear a shirt that’s made of plastic, and this plastic is warmed by your skin, does it fume or not? My money’s on “it does”. But a documented treat – and really, really bad for us – are clothes coated with Formaldehyde. Who would do such a stupid thing, you ask? If you own creased trousers, business suits that are “dry clean only” because they otherwise lose their shape etc. – congratulations to your daily Formaldehyde fix! 😦
Cleaning products: bleach and spot removers, desinfection spray and rinse, laundry liquids and fabric softeners, deodorising sprays (mmmh, phtalates, anyone?) and chemical mothballs.
Dry clean only clothes: The standard and most common cleaning agents are Perchlorethylene (aka Tetrachlorethene) which is a recognised potential human cancerogen (it easily enters any porous surface such as food or fabrics) and Hydrocarbon. Hydrocarbon is made of petroleum, goes right into the atmosphere where it becomes the global warming’s best friend. Oh, if you ever read about “organic” solvents – it’s hydrocarbon they talk about. “Organic” in this context is chemistry speak and means “carbon-based”, not “clean and pasture-grown”.
Shoes, shoes, shoes: Where do I even begin? A leather shoe can be contaminated with Chromium; a vegan Polyvinyl Chloride shoe will be loaded with Phtalates. Glue is often enough Formaldehyde-based. Additional treatments – anti-odour – are probably based on Triclosan, an antimicrobial endocrine disruptor.
If you remember that Greenpeace campaign “Detox Fashion” you’re already pretty much au courant.
If you remember the news about sewing factories in Bangladesh burning down and workers dying, you’re pretty much au courant.
And if the term “sweat shop” rings a bell, you’re more au courant than you thought.
I’m not saying you should wrap yourself in a hessian sack and go live in the mountains – although the mountain bit sounds not bad (I definitely need my vacation). I’m saying be cautious and do what you can to make your wardrobe a safer and the world a more beautiful place! And do check out these…
* PLASTIC and FOOD:
Food containers/ ketchup bottles and any other plastic packagings for food are only safe if they are marked one of those recycling symbols: 1 PETE, 2 HDPE, 4 LDPE, 5 PP. Those plastics are not known to leak/outgas any harmful chemicals when used. PP is harmful during production, and also rarer than other plastics.
** ON TOXINS and THE DAMAGE:
If you’re interested, you can check this Collaborative Database on Health and the Environment listing toxins and recognised chemical contaminants.
There are many, many ecolabels for textiles.
The most important, internationally recognised clothes safety label is called GOTS.
Consumers can use their public database seach in order to find brands that comply with the standards:
Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become GOTS certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with minimum social criteria.”
– GOTS: The Standard
For social standards, you’ll want to visit the brands list of the NPO Fair Wear Foundation.
And if you’re hungry for even more insider facts, check out this interview I did earlier this year with the founder of Germany’s first eco-fair fashion trade fair Magdalena Schaffrin.