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Are clothes you are purchasing toxic?

Clothes on a rack

Credit: iStock

As you purchase that new pair of pants, skirt, or cool jumper you are probably thinking of how wonderful you will look in them, how people will see you in a new light, and how social doors are bound to open as a result of your new apparel acquisition. You probably aren’t thinking that your new clothing item may also be a small warehouse of chemicals, but according to a new study that is just what it might be.

This could play a role in allergic dermatitis and potentially have other health affects as well.

In the process of clothes manufacturing there are thousands of chemicals used. These Swedish researchers wanted to see if there are chemicals on the clothes you buy as well. They gathered garments from the Swedish marketplace and found that around 100 chemicals were present on clothes. Some of these came from manufacturing and others came from the transport of the clothes.

Of the chemicals found four groups were chosen for further analysis on the basis of occurrence, quantity, toxicity, and how easily they may penetrate the skin. The highest concentration of two of these (quinolines and aromatic amines) were found in polyester. Cotton contained high concentrations of benzothiazoles, even organic cotton.

The researchers washed the clothes but some chemicals remained in the clothes which the researchers say means there is a real chance of long term skin exposure. This could play a role in allergic dermatitis and potentially have other health affects as well.

Obviously we need to wash clothes carefully but this really points to the need for care in clothing production. Although the organic cotton did show levels of some chemicals in general organically produced materials would have to be better for us. As the researchers say though, this is just scratching the surface and since we wear clothes every day we need to find out exactly how textile chemicals affect us and look at whether we can reduce our exposure at the source.


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.