Wellness

Toxic Clothing Fabrics Could Be Making You Sick

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Wellness

Toxic Clothing Fabrics Could Be Making You Sick

You are what you wear?

Vanessa Fitzgerald is a wellness advocate with an affinity for holistic health. As a certified nutrition response practitioner, Vanessa is passionate about helping her clients achieve optimal wellness. 

In her own words:I am a holistic health and life coach, certified nutrition response testing practitioner, recipe developer, ex-yoga teacher, and overall wellness wizard. Learning to eat the right foods for my body has changed my life, and I’m passionate about helping my clients achieve this change. 

I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 19, celiac disease at 23, and hashimotos at 25. On top of all that, I was addicted to adderall for 13 years. I saw countless doctors who insisted I go on a cocktail of meds that included birth control and thyroid hormones, but I knew there had to be another way. 

Learning to eat the right foods for my body has changed my life, and I’m passionate about helping my clients achieve this change. I specialize in PCOS, thyroid healing, gut health, delayed aging, weight loss, acne, medication detox and more. Traditional healing foods and paleo/keto meal planning are the foundation of my practice.”

It’s no secret that Vanessa is big on practicing holistic beauty from the inside out. That practice inevitably starts and ends with what we put in and on our bodies. Vanessa sheds light on the toxic fabrics that are seeping into our skin and how it’s directly affecting our health on a daily basis.

TS

What are the health risks associated with conventional commercial fabrics?

VF

Thanks to the large amount of chemicals required for production, conventional cotton has been linked to brain damage, fetal damage, and fertility issues. The petroleum-based fibers in sweat wicking and performance fabrics (i.e. workout gear) can actually trap toxins in your body and suffocate skin. They’ve also been associated with headaches, nausea, skin rashes and respiratory issues. PFC (Perfluorocarbon) might make your clothing water-resistant, but potential side effects include kidney cancer, testicular cancer, obesity and decreased response to vaccines. Flame retardants have been linked to infertility, reduced IQ, endocrine disruption and breast cancer. 

TS

Which chemicals should we be worried about? What are they used for in during production, and what are their individual effects on the body?

VF

Dioxin is a big-time endocrine disruptor and is found in conventional cotton. It belongs to the “dirty-dozen,” a group of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are extremely dangerous to humans and the environment. According to the World Health Organization, long-term exposure can impair the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. NOT chic!

TS

Which fabrics have the highest amount of toxic chemicals or the most potential to be hazardous?

VF

Sweat wicking or performance fabrics, flame retardant fabrics, conventional cotton and fabric that’s been treated with dark dyes are the biggest ones to limit.

TS

Are there certain items of clothing that carry more risk than others? 

VF

While I love the environmental responsibility of brands that create leggings out of recycled plastic, hot plastic is one of the LAST things you want on your body when you’re sweating. Body heat and sweating increases the absorption of chemicals in the body.

“You are not only what you eat but you are also what you wear.”

TS

Are vintage clothes just as toxic? How recently have these chemicals appeared in our clothes?

VF

Used clothes, which have generally been cleaned many times, are likely to have their toxic finishes washed away. Plus, if your clothing is truly vintage (read: pre-fast fashion), it was probably produced using less toxic methods and more natural fabrics. 

DDT, the first of the modern synthetic insecticides, was developed in 1940 and was frequently used on crops like cotton, which are especially susceptible to pests. While DDT was eventually banned, it began a dangerous farming trend: spraying crops with chemicals — that has only grown. 

TS

If these chemicals are affecting bodies this way, what impact are they having on our environment?

VF

Tanneries, chemical manufacturing and the dye industry are three of the top ten most polluting industries in the world. Every part of the clothing manufacturing process, from growing and harvesting raw materials using non-organic farming practices, processing petroleum into synthetic fibers, shipping and and distributing clothing across the world, has a detrimental impact on the environment. Any action you can take, whether it’s buying used clothing, signing up for a clothing rental service or buying high quality and ethically manufactured products, can help, especially when those small changes are implemented by large groups of consumers.

TS

What should consumers look for when shopping for non-toxic clothing? Which fabrics are the safest and most sustainable?

VF

In terms of skin-friendly fabrics, your shopping list should include: organic cotton, bamboo, silk, hemp, linen, wool and cashmere. Think minimal chemical processing, natural fibers. Also, do your best to limit or avoid clothing with darker dyes, which contain a higher level of paraphenylenediamine.

TS

Where can consumers find safer clothing choices? Any recommended shops?

VF

re/make
A great list
of eco-friendly brands are listed on their site. Here are some standouts and personal faves: 

MATE the Label
Chic and sustainable basics. Their products feature GOTS certified cotton, non-toxic, low impact dyes and are produced ethically in Los Angeles. I’m a huge fan of this female-owned business and the work they’re doing to produce stylish garments that keep us (and the planet) healthy.

Boyish Jeans
Boyish is produced with sustainable fabrics through a completely environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free process. Boyish Jeans’ efforts in sustainable fashion include: working with ethical factories, using less harmful chemicals during the dyeing process, utilizing one-third of the amount of water typically needed to produce a pair of jeans, and working exclusively with recycled fabrics and materials for everything put out by the brand.  

HARA
HARA’s ethically produced, organic bamboo bras and underwear are a major must-have. If you’re looking for a place to start, I absolutely recommend beginning with undergarments, since toxic chemicals in clothing are highly linked to infertility issues.

Prana
Prana’s workout apparel features 100% organic cotton. When it comes to yoga gear, this is a much better option than brands that use synthetic fabrics. 

TS

How did you become aware of this issue and why is it important to you as a health practitioner?

VF

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Organs are made up of tissue. Tissue is highly permeable. What does this mean? You are not only what you eat, but you are also what you wear. 

As a nutrition response testing practitioner, I’ve picked up on these substances in many of my clients — especially those that spend the majority of their days in synthetic workout clothes. We’re so careful about the food we put in our mouths and the beauty products we put on our bodies, but we often don’t think about the clothing we live in.

For anyone taking a holistic approach to their health, it’s super important to consider all potential sources for exposure to harmful substances. Not to make you crazy but to empower you to make better choices whenever possible. 

Interview courtesy of Vanessa Fitzgerald (@veeshoney)

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