Aren't all Fabrics Safe?

Aren't all fabrics safe? The textile industry uses lots of chemicals to turn coarse fibers into the soft, lustrous, smooth, colorful fabrics we demand. In textile manufacturing: organic fibers are washed, sized, de-sized, bleached, dyed, treated with detergents, optical brighteners, biocides, wetting agents, lubricants, sequestering agents,  stabilizers, emulsifiers, complexing agents …and more.

The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists Buyers Guide for 2007 lists over 2000 chemicals used in textile manufacturing – many of which are known to bioaccumulate, persist in our environment and are associated with a host of human health issues, such as infertility, autoimmune diseases, cancers, nervous system disorders and many others1.

It takes from 10% to 100% of the weight of the fabric in chemical additives to produce the fabric to cover an average sofa. And since one average size sofa uses about 25 yards of fabric, which weights about 1 lb. per yard on average, then the total weight of the fabric to cover a sofa would be 25 lbs., so from 2.5 to 25 pounds of chemicals were used to produce the fabric.

And the finished fabric, advertised as being made from 100% cotton, is actually made of 73% cotton fibers and 27% "other", such as, for example:

  • 2% polyacryl
  • 8% dyestuff
  • 14% urea formaldehyde
  • 3% softening agents
  • 0.3% optical brighteners

The fabrics we bring into our homes contain lots of chemicals by weight - chemicals which are often outlawed in other products. These chemicals which remain in the fabric are absorbed by our bodies: some chemicals evaporate into the air; some are absorbed through our skin. Another way our bodies absorb these chemicals is over time, microscopic particles are abraded and fall into the dust in our homes, where we can breathe them in.

Studies are being published that specifically link diseases to chemicals found in textiles.

The fabrics we live with contain chemicals which have been proven to affect us in many ways, from subtle to profound: in terms of infertility, asthma, nervous disorders (ranging from depression and anxiety to brain tumors), immune system suppression and genetic alteration. And the industry pollutes our groundwater by dumping untreated effluent into our waterways, where it circulates around the globe.

Stands to reason why we'd want safe fabrics doesn't it?

For more information on fabric safety see Why Organic Fabric?