The high-street clothes that are dangerous for your health

The Note Passer

You would never suspect for a second that the little aquamarine blue top you bought in Zara last month could have such an impact on the environment, as well as putting your health in danger. And yet it makes sense! While organic farming is being promoted everywhere these days, we rarely think about the pollution related to the fabrics that are in our clothes, which undergo similar processes. Fortunately, we don’t ingest the clothes, but we wear them regularly directly on our skin. Which means that we risk collateral damage. Let us explain. 

The big high street brands use toxic carcinogenic substances to manufacture their clothes.

In 2011, Greenpeace carried out an inquiry into the chemical substances used in the fashion industry to manufacture clothing. The main targets of the inquiry were Zara, Armani and Levi’s. To carry out the study, jeans, trousers, t-shirts, dresses and underwear were tested, coming from mens, womens’ and childrens’ clothing lines alike. The verdict was alarming:  in almost two thirds of the clothes, they discovered nonylphenol etholxylates (NPEs), elevated concentrations of toxic phtalates and carcinogenic amines in the dyes, as well as other potentially dangerous chemicals. These products could lead to allergies, rashes or even cancers in the long term.

The effect on the environment

Different countries’ regulations regarding the use of carcinogenic chemical substances in the manufacture of clothing are not clear. These dangerous products can thus be emitted into the waste water coming from the factories, and thus spread into the environment, the seas and the rivers.

The high street brands make us their unwitting accomplices

The textile industry makes us unwitting accomplices in global pollution: when we wash our clothes, the residues of the chemical products contained in the material is emitted in the waste water and is thus released into the environment.

Fashion Detox, Credits : Greenpeace

The solution? Buy second hand or choose natural materials

Second hand clothes have previously released their volatile chemical compounds, and by buying them you risk less exposure than when you buy new. You can also choose clothes in natural fibres, such as cotton, hemp, linen or bamboo -materials which are 100% biodegradable and can even be composted. Furthermore, the market for organic clothing is currently expanding, and nowadays it is very easy to find affordable organic clothes. So yes, you can stay in fashion, but in a healthy and responsible way!