The Health Risks of Toxic Fibers and Fabrics

One issue we never think about when we go shopping for our clothes is how toxic and harmful for our health that piece of fabric could be? Neither do we think of its origin nor its manufacturing and the toxic load on our body and in the environment. Unfortunately only a small part of our clothing is not harmful to wear and produced with natural and eco-friendly fibers, most of them are still manufactured with tons of chemicals becoming highly toxic and increasing the negative effects on our body’s health.

Let's make an easy example, take a glimpse at your clothing labels and you will definitely find out that most of them contain materials such as polyester, acrylic, nylon and acetate described on it. Besides that, with the technological advances in the Textile Industry, we usually shop more and more for fabrics that are meant to make our lives easier, such as the wrinkle-free, stain resistant and insect repellent fabrics, but what we don’t know is that those fabrics are a great source of toxins that unfavorably affect our health and the environment.

Throughout the years and through lots of researches, some health hazards such as cancer, hormonal dysfunction, as well as immunity harm and behavioral problems have been linked with the wearing of toxic fabrics and fibers. The blame worthies in regard to the health conditions are the different types of chemicals used in the dying and bleaching process of chemically treated natural and synthetic fibers as well as its manufacturing.

PolyesterSome of the worst harmful wear fabrics that should be avoided are the ones that contain Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic and Nylon as well as most of the high tech fabrics, specially the one for our sportswear. Let's examine each one of them closely and thoroughly in order to understand them better.

Fabrics woven or knitted from Polyester thread or yarn such as Terylene, Dacron, Lycra or Vycron are the most prejudicial fabrics for our body. Besides that, technologic fabrics popular for wrinkle-free, wear resistance, drying up properties and water and wind resistance are also produced with Polyester fibers and are not recommended for people with skin sensibility. A Polyester fiber is made from synthetic polymes that are made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terpthalic acid that means, both of them are highly toxic and these toxins are not completely removed after the manufacturing process, finding an easy entry into our body through moist skin. In addition, researches confirmed that plenty of healthy conditions and diseases come from the excessive wear of polyester fabrics, generating problems such as skin cancer and other types of cancer, chronic and severe respiratory infections as well as skin problems such as rashes, itching, redness and dermatitis. Some disorders such as reduced sperm count out and behavioral changes are also associated with the constant wearing of Polyesters clothes. Not only is Polyester very harmful for people but also it is dangerous for the environment since it is hard to be recycled also biodegraded and its production disposes toxins in the water and emits lots of pollutants in the air.

RayonRayon is a fiber produced from recycled wood pulp or bamboo cellulose processed by a combination of many chemicals involving carbon disulphide, sulfuric acid, ammonia, acetone and caustic soda to bear regular washing and constant wearing. The carbon disulphide emitted from Rayon fabric can cause nausea, headache, vomiting, chest and muscle pain and insomnia as well as the toxins released from Rayon can also occasion tissue necrosis, anorexia and Parkinson’s disease for people who regularly wear clothing made of it. It is evident that Rayon is a hazardous fabric for people, but its chemicals disposed in the factory effluents can also affect the Eco-system by polluting the water, decreasing the plant’s growth and shortening animals’ life.

Acrylic is another fiber manufactured with a combination of toxic substances and it is pointed as one of the causes of women’s breast cancer. Besides that, Acrylic’s manufacturing process, if not properly monitored can result in an explosion. Acrylic fibers are highly inflammable and not easy recyclable nor biodegradable in the environment.

NylonAnother hazardous fabric but yet very popular is Nylon. This fiber is petroleum based and heavily receives chemical treatments using caustic soda, sulfuric acid and formaldehyde during its manufacturing. Moreover, the fabric receives a combination of bleaching and softer agents such as chloroform, limonene, pentene and terpineol. Because of this reason, Nylon is one of the least eco-friendly textiles and even after the manufacture process finished, the fabric still retains toxins residues that can be harmful to people’s health. Some health conditions are related to the frequent wear of Nylon clothes such as Cancer, skin allergies, dizziness, headaches, spine pains and system dysfunction.

One thing we should keep in mind is that all kind of fibers, natural or synthetic, at some point of their manufacturing process receive many kinds of chemicals such as detergents, petrochemical dyes, bleaching agents, softener agents and among others. Thus, these chemicals still remain after the manufacturing process is over, becoming a toxin to people’s body. Some people who have skin sensibility or just want to reduce their toxic load and prevent themselves from any kind of health problem should constantly look for natural fibers such as cotton, wool, cashmere, hemp, linen, silk or organic fabrics.

All in all, the Fashion and Textile Industry together through researches and technological advances should develop more and more innovative and sustainable alternative fibers and fabrics in order to prevent potential health and environment hazards occasioned these toxic materials.