Few of us go to work, shop, run errands, or go to school naked, especially in Canadian winters! In intimate contact with our skin for the majority of our lives, the clothing we wear and dress our children in can have a direct effect on our health, and our environment.
Harmful Materials in Clothes
Most of us enjoy buying attractive, appealing clothes for ourselves and our families. Appearance, comfort, and functionality are the characteristics which most often guide our choices. Unfortunately, with the rise of fast fashion and convenience, many stores are filled with poorly-made clothes treated with undesirable chemicals (many of which are toxic or carcinogenic) and unsustainable materials and practices, including:
- Dyes — Many dyes can be skin irritants, while others can be toxic, such as AZO dyes which are common in fast fashion.
- Anti-wrinkle & Stain-Resistant Finishes — Formaldehyde (an irritant and known carcinogen) is commonly used to keep clothes looking fresh during transport and display.
- Waterproofing Treatments — Common on winter gear, perfluorocarbons (PFCs including PFOA) are often used to treat fabrics (and make non-stick cookware!), and are suspected carcinogens.
- Chemicals Used in Production — In addition to those intentionally applied to clothing itself, residue may be present from pesticides and other chemicals used in growing and processing natural fibers such as non-organic cotton.
- Synthetic Microfibers — When synthetic fabrics such as acrylic and polyester are washed, hundreds of microfibers are released which then enter our water supply.
How to Choose Safer, More Sustainable Clothes
Reading clothing labels and consciously choosing fabrics, production methods, and practices that avoid these and other harms and hazards is a vital step toward improving your family's health and protecting our planet. Look for:
- Natural fabrics (organic cotton, linen, silk, wool, hemp)
- Look for the Oeko-Tex label for clothing verified as safe
- Consider upcycled clothing made from safe materials
- AZO-free dyes, such as natural indigo
- Vegetable leathers, such as those made from tree bark, mushrooms, or pineapple
- Fairtrade and ethically produced clothing and fabrics
At Macpherson Toy House, beautiful, well-made products that are kind to our bodies and our planet are central to our philosophy.
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