People all over the Earth are addicted to cheaply made and poorly made clothing. They make impulse buys because of the enticing price and nine times out of ten, that piece of clothing is worn once and then tossed at the bottom of the wardrobe, never to see the light of day again. While you make a vote with your money every day, it’s not just the customer at blame. Nearly every clothing store is guilty of stocking unethically produced clothing and turning a blind eye to the people who earn a wage that doesn't even cover the cost of living, the use of toxic and harmful dyes and chemicals and the consequent environmental issues.
You might be wondering how fast fashion can be so toxic but the impact of the clothing industry is so significant that Greenpeace has launched a campaign to make substantial changes in the industry. In 2012, Greenpeace conducted an investigation into the use of toxic chemicals in major fashion brands and documented the findings in Toxic Thread: The Big Fashion Stitch Up.
The investigation tested chemicals in the garments of 20 major and international fashion brands, purchase from authorised retailers in 29 different countries and found that two thirds of the items had nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) present. NPEs are harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are widely used in textile processing. These chemicals mess around with your hormones and frequent exposure can can an impact upon your reproductive health.
They also found that majority of the garments contained very high levels of cancer causing amines. How can these cancer causing chemicals affect you? Well your skin is more absorbent than you think and frequent wearing of these kind of garments mean that the chemicals can be absorbed through the skin of the wearer. This risk is also higher if you wear the garment without washing it first.
It’s also extremely worrying that many of the garments that Greenpeace tested were well known children’s brands. Occasionally, these toxic garments will be picked up by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulator and in 2009, 200,000 denim products that contained carcinogenic dyes were recalled. A few of the brands included I this recall were Cotton On, Just Jeans, Rivers and Myers.
The clothes you buy don’t just affect your health either, harmful synthetic chemicals also have an impact on the workers and communities in the country where the garments have been manufactured. In most places, policies and procedures aren’t in place to protect these workers or are poorly enforced. NPEs are also toxic to fish and other marine life so having these chemicals leach into the waterways is detrimental to flora and fauna all over the world.
Ready to make a change now? There’s a few steps you can take to begin the journey on the road to change.
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