The simple act of getting dressed each day exposes our bodies to thousands of toxic, hazardous and dangerous chemicals. Our skin is our largest organ and whatever touches us can be absorbed through our pores and even enter our blood stream.
This statement is a bit overwhelming but true. Conventional clothing in the U.S. is created and produced using an array of toxic chemicals, many of which have been banned in other industrialized countries.
Recently a group of 200 scientists from 38 countries issued a warning about the use of PFC’s (Pre-fluorinated Compounds) in textiles, citing many illnesses related to their use. However, it’s not just the added chemicals we need to be concerned about but the synthetic (i.e. artificial) fibers themselves which are created in laboratories by mixing a host of toxic chemical ingredients. Synthetic fabrics are commonly used to produce bras. For example, nylon is made using coal, petroleum, natural gas and agricultural by-products and is formed from diamine, dicarboxylic and acetic acid.
Research has shown that breast tissue is highly sensitive to the chemicals in toxic fabric and breast tissue samples reveal high levels of their presence.
Polyurethane foam used as padding in over 80% of bras is made from petroleum by creating a polymer composed of organic units joined by carbamate (urethane) links and formed by reacting a di- or poly isocyanate with a polyol to synthesize polyurethanes. The use of these chemicals has raised severe toxicity issues. What’s surprising is how little it’s being disclosed about this type of foam that is so commonly used in bras.
Bras also contain toluene, triclosan and VOC’s
Toluene is a derivative of crude oil and is present in nylon fabric and polyurethane foam. The use of toluene has been banned in many countries as it can pass through our skin pores and penetrate the bloodstream. Triclosan is a chemical used to stop the growth of bacteria. It has the ability to penetrate the skin on contact and enter the blood stream as well. It’s frequently added to athletic clothing, including sports bras. Triclosan has recently gained attention because of its use in personal care products such as anti-bacterial soap and its high detection in breast milk. VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) are combinations of compounds that include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene and benzene. These toxins can be released through the off-gassing of polyurethane foam.
Dyes in clothing also matter, as synthetic dyes are known carcinogens. Many of the colors we see in conventional underwear such as red, blue and yellow are created using a category of dyes classified as “azo, acid, basic red 9, direct blue 6, black 38, disperse blue 1, yellow 1 and 3.” These particular dyes been banned in other countries due to their toxicity.
What a girl should do?
The answer is simple─ wear organic.
What makes organic apparel the better choice? Organic clothing are produced using cotton grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. It’s dyed using organic, natural or low-impact dyes, eliminating your exposure to the harsh effects of the chemical versions. Oftentimes, the fabric is not dyed at all.
As a professional dressmaker and owner of Silver Needle and Thread Custom-Sewn Clothing, I’m always looking for ways to create great fashion using fabrics free of toxic chemicals. Creating wardrobes using organic cotton, hemp, linen and wool and natural fibers like peace silk, cashmere and alpaca is my main priority. In addition to sewing healthy clothes, issues of pollution control, sustainability, fair trade, transparency and social justice play an important role in the service my company provides.
Many small companies are now producing organic undies following the strict guidelines of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) Certification. The styles are flattering and the fit is much more comfortable. However, its true organic undies are not as sexy, but for everyday life, does it really need to be? Also note that if you choose to sleep in a bra, make sure it’s organic and not synthetic or padded.
As individuals, we must decide where our priorities lie and the practicality of the behaviors we choose to display in order to define ourselves. Statistics state that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. Maybe it’s time that good health and well being outweigh concepts of “sexy” as we begin to move in the right direction of taking care of our bodies. There’s no denying that the toxic chemicals in our clothes are making us sick. Be well and choose pure, clean organic clothing.
Realizing you have the power to protect yourself is the first step to better health.