Every year 80,000 million new garments are bought around the world, but previously they go through a production process that is unhealthy for people and the environment.
Many of these garments are manufactured in China, India and Bangladesh and the wastewater from the process contains numerous pollutants, such as antimony being the dyes, azo dyes, which cause DNA damage.
Nonylphenol ethoxylates, phthalates, chromium VI, heavy metals, alkylphenols, formaldehyde Amines, etc. are used during the process. that become common components present in the garments that we use daily.
To the pollutants of the manufacturing process, the data on the use of pesticides to obtain cotton is added. About 2.5 percent of the world's arable land is used for cotton plantations, which in turn consume 25 percent of the pesticides used globally.
Once clothes are manufactured, the substances used in their production do not disappear completely after distribution and sale. Scientists have spent years analyzing what happens when the end consumer is exposed to these textiles.
Allergies and something else
Although many of the chemicals added during clothing manufacturing processes are rinsed out, residual concentrations of some substances can linger and be released during use by consumers.
Most of the research on the impact of clothing on people's health refers to allergic skin reactions to contact with clothing.
But in clothing there are also potentially toxic chemicals, such as trace elements, flame retardants or certain pigments for dyes in some garments that could lead to potential systemic risks, and even mean "non-assumable cancer risks for consumers," they warn scientists, especially focusing on the vulnerability of children.
Effect of continued use on health and damage to the environment
At the moment, there are measures such as the European REACH standard whose objective is to regulate and limit exposure to certain chemicals considered very toxic. For example, "it has been possible to ban imports of some chemical substances such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, one of the most common chemicals used in fashion to achieve impermeability in fabrics"
However, there is still no strict global regulation on the use of certain toxic chemical substances, which means that due to the dynamics of mass production, the immense production chains that exist in the textile industry and the lack of regulation in the producing countries themselves, a situation of very limited control over how clothing is actually being produced continues to be perpetuated.
In this way, “the use of chemical substances during manufacturing and their presence in final textile products causes chemical contamination in the sector to spread globally since these substances continue to be released throughout their life cycle, even when a garment is turns into waste "
A clear example of this environmental problem associated with the textile industry is the continuous release of microfibers of synthetic origin whose degradation is very slow, such as plastics that end up contaminating the environment and entering the food chain. "As synthetic materials normally cannot being effectively digested by living organisms, they remain in the ecosystem for centuries. This problem, far from being controlled, is increasing accompanied by the growing textile production and the increased use of synthetic materials, such as polyester ”, the scientists mention.
Prevent the use of toxins
Some companies are becoming aware of toxics in clothing and have pledged to phase them out. Looking at the labels is a necessary act to know the composition of the garments and thus obtain information regarding their nature and how the raw material has been treated.
“Natural organic undyed fabrics are the ones that can give us the most peace of mind. Instead, dark or bright colors indicate the use of heavy metals ”, advise the scientists.
At the moment there are no specific certifications that report on the toxic chemicals contained in clothing, but there are some seals that guarantee sustainability in certain processes of the production chain such as Blue Sign, Textile Exchange or GOTS, among others, the first being the most specific for the regulation of harmful substances.
In this sense, the Greenpeace Detox campaign has highlighted for several years the need for a change in the way of producing fashion, especially by emphasizing the consequences that these toxic products are having at the environmental and health level. .
A review of the sector that has shown, however, that the use of chemicals is only part of the problem and its elimination will be only part of the solution. The main problem to be solved is that the cycle of production, use and reuse of materials is closed and slowed down to reduce the extraction of new natural resources, the emission of greenhouse gases, chemical pollution and the generation of waste.
With information from: