There are many reasons we become diseased, get ill or just plain don’t feel well. Some of them are beyond our control, like pollution and toxic chemicals served in foods we don’t personally prepare for ourselves — not to mention genetics and viruses. But quite a few things we can eliminate are compromising our health one day at a time. As it turns out, health-depleting toxins come in many shapes, sizes, colors and designs. Yes, they are in the clothes you wear every day.
Back in the good old days when people moved around in horse and buggies, their clothes were made of natural fibers like cotton. But over time, science and technology “advanced,” bringing the fashion-conscious person an entire new array of fabric choices. Today we have polyester, rayon, poly-cotton blends, stretchy Spandex and the so-called nanotechnology fabrics that require no ironing. They come in all colors of the rainbow and dozens not even on the rainbow. Looking good never felt so… bad.
The problem is: You wear clothes nearly 24 hours a day. From pajamas to work clothes to sportswear and relaxing attire, clothing is against your body almost every consecutive hour. It turns out this may be the reason many of us experience the signs and symptoms of ill health. You see, many fabrics in clothing are toxic to human beings and, even if they aren’t, chances are the detergent you are washing them in is. And toxicity begets ill health. Let’s take a closer look.
There are basically two categories of fabrics you need to know about: natural and toxic. Natural fabrics include the varieties that are organic, made of natural materials like cotton, silk, linen, cashmere, wool and hemp. These types of fabrics allow your skin to breathe, hold moisture away from your skin and, yes, require some special cleaning instructions and/or ironing before wear. Can you even imagine going back to a time when you had to separate fabrics in different wash cycles and break out the ironing board and iron to smooth wrinkles? Doing laundry in those days may have seemed like a pain- and time-consuming aggravation you just don’t need, but, in fact, they were healthier days.
Synthetic fabrics are the offspring not of nature but of science and technology. They are made with special materials that, depending on the fiber, can stretch as your body swells (from toxins?), hug your hips, never wrinkle and always stay dry (by forcing your skin to absorb the toxic moisture). And if the clothes you are wearing — especially undergarments — make you itchy or leave red marks on your body, the toxins are being pressed into your skin all day. No wonder your ribs are red and sore.
Synthetic fabrics are made from chemicals like petroleum, various pesticides, perfluorochemicals, antimony and cadmium. They include polyester, Spandex, rayon, acrylic, nylon, acetate and triacetate. And any fabric or clothing that claims to be static resistant, permanent press or wrinkle-free or that requires no ironing is made from a non-natural chemical substance that is potentially putting you at risk.
Please stay away from wrinkle-free or no-iron fabrics. They are exposing you to toxins called perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. These are the same chemicals used on many Teflon-coated or non-stick pans. The problem is that these chemicals are not natural; therefore, the human body is not designed to metabolize them. Therefore, PFCs accumulate in your blood cells. PFCs have been linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity and also to both liver and bladder cancer.
The worst aspect of this problem is that PFCs are more flammable than natural fibers. As a result, more flame-retardant chemicals called halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) are used to make the fabric “safe” for public wear. I’m sorry, but my idea of “safe” is also linked to a basic concept of “healthy” — which means not including toxic chemicals like HFRs that have been linked to thyroid issues, reproductive and neurodevelopmental problems, immune suppression, and even cancer. The whole thing is perverse.
But fabrics are only part of the problem. Their colors are toxic, too. In the olden days, fabric color dyes were made from plants, minerals and animal sources. You know: natural stuff. These days, they are made from synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, cadmium, cobalt and antimony. They are toxic; you don’t want them on your skin (your largest organ) all day, every day, for your entire life. Look for clothing and fabric labels that say organic dyes or natural dyes.
If we are talking about toxins that enter the body through the skin, then you can see how these toxins can be avoided. In other words, there is an entire set of illness-causing and disease-causing toxic substances that can be removed from your life by your own choice. Clothing is a great place to start. You should also eliminate toxic bed sheets, blankets, bath towels and upholstered furniture.
What’s more, you need to be aware that the very laundry detergents you are using may also be toxic. If your detergent, fabric softeners or dryer sheets are scented, chances are they leave residues of toxic chemicals on your clothes that are entering your body through your skin. Yes, in the olden days, soap and detergent scents were made from flowers, berries, roots and barks. Today, the vast majority are made from petroleum. So if a product smells “mountain fresh” or like a “spring breeze,” it may cause disease. From your clothing to your skin and through to your cells, these chemicals travel in your body and cause rashes, pain, illness and eventual disease.
You may not be able to avoid toxic fabrics or chemical cleaners everywhere you go, but you can make a choice to change the fabrics of the clothes you wear, the towels you use and the detergents you clean with. These are things you can control to help reduce your risk of the symptoms of chronic ill-health and disease. The habit of merely thinking of clothes in terms of how they look and feel needs to be replaced with a focus on their health effects. Only after you read a clothing label and see that a potential purchase is made of natural fibers should you look for the best fitting and most trendy clothing. Don’t forget to wash all clothes in hypoallergenic, scent-free detergent and you’ll have the best of fashion and health.