You might think you can trust globally-recognised brand names when it comes to safety, but children’s clothing and shoes made by many of them have been found to contain harmful chemicals.
Twelve global fashion brands were examined, with the discovery of hazardous chemicals in 82 pieces. Every brand that was tested in the study contained dangerous chemicals such as nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), as was found in products made by Burberry, American Apparel and Disney. These NPEs break down in the environment to form chemicals that disrupt hormones. Other discoveries included cancer-causing perfluoroctane acid (PFOA) and phthalates, which can harm fertility.
Chemical Crash Course
There are ways in which you can decrease the amount of chemicals in your children’s clothing. But first, here’s some info about commonly found and dangerous toxins:
Dyes contain carcinogenic toxins and can be harmful to kids in many ways. For example, they can cause dark circles under the eyes, hyperactivity, as well as behavioural and learning problems. Formaldehyde is an example of a dangerous dye. It is common in clothes that do not wrinkle or shrink and can lead to short-term health issues such as irritation to the nose, eye, throat and skin, as well as headaches and nausea. Long-term exposure can result in leukaemia, cancer of the nasal passages and throat, and other respiratory tract cancer. Other health issues include allergic reactions and asthma.
Phthalates are often used in plastics to make them flexible and durable. In clothing, you can find high amounts of phthalates on t-shirts that have large images embossed on them. Not just a danger regarding fertility, phthalates are endocrine disrupters which can lead to breast cancer.
NPES (Nonylphenol ethoxylates or nonylphenols) are used to wash clothing after dying and can disrupt hormones. They remain in the environment and accumulate in the tissues of living organisms. These chemicals are highly toxic to aquatic creatures when discharged into water. The Greenpeace study mentioned that although NPEs are not permitted to be discharged in Europe, the practice is not forbidden in Asia. But they can be discharged from being in the washing machine so it’s best to avoid them.
What You Can Do
- Buy organic clothing as much as possible. Check out The ecoBaby Company and Earth Child for greener options.
- Always wash clothing well a few times before using them. This can help to remove excess dyes and finishes. Soak the items overnight in a tub of water that contains one cup of vinegar.
- Use non-toxic detergent when washing clothes. You can find a range of eco cleaning products at Faithful to Nature.