Synthetic clothing materials such as rayon, nylon, acrylic, and polyester are made from coal and petroleum derivatives. They do not exist naturally in the environment. They are not biodegradable. They wreak havoc on the Earth, as well as your body.
These fabrics are most commonly used in fashion products because they are cheap and are easier to produce. They also appeal to potential buyers because they can give clothing some additional features such as being “wrinkle-free” or “breathable.”
The costs outweigh these benefits however because synthetic materials are very bad for our health. Phthalates, for example, are synthetic ingredients which are commonly used in clothing today and are known to disrupt hormones making them a valid cause of chronic illness. Formaldehyde is another typical ingredient used in synthetic clothing which is also a known carcinogen. This article on Pri.org talks more in depth about the health issues associated with these chemicals.
Not only are these materials detrimental to our health but they also pose significant harm to the environment. Many people don’t realize that textile dying is actually the second largest source of water pollution after agriculture. The fashion industry is largely responsible for this massive impact as it promotes the idea that clothes constantly need to be updated, leading to clothing waste.
Jewelry is not exempt from creating a negative impact either. As discussed in a recent article on Jezebel.com, fashion jewelry is predominantly made of alloy blends that contain heavy metals like nickel, lead, and cadmium – all known to cause severe neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s disease. The article refrences a study that found high levels of these hazardous chemicals in products from common clothing stores such as H&M and Walmart.
So what can we do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our planet?
Well, every piece of clothing that exists does undergo some form of processing and will come into contact with chemicals at some point – cotton, for example, is often grown with pesticides by necessity. So while it is nearly impossible to find clothing that is completely free of these nasty chemicals, it is possible to find clothing which is minimally processed. In other words, do the best you can! There are a few different ways of going about that:
1) Read the labels of every single garment you find, like, and want to try on. This way, you can make sure that all or most of the materials are natural. Shopping for clothes and jewelry could be like a fun part-time job, except instead of making money you spend it. You have nothing better to do anyway, right?
2) Shop at expensive new age clothing and accessory shops and get a bunch of nice handmade, organic stuff. You won’t be able to afford rent but at least you’ll have your pride.
3) Run away from society, live off the land, and spend your days making clothes out of straw, coconuts, and animal skins that you harvest yourself.
Or, you know… not.
There are many fantastic businesses that are now sourcing clothing that is ethically produced and made from all natural materials. I will link to them here shortly. In the meantime, search around! Being healthy isn’t hard, I promise 🙂