In this episode of the Vedge Your Best podcast, I’m pleased to welcome Alden Wicker, journalist, founder and editor-in-chief of Ecocult, and author of To Dye For: How Toxic Fashion Is Making Us Sick—and How We Can Fight Back.
Avoiding toxic chemicals in clothing is important for both personal health and environmental sustainability. Here are some tips from Alden Wicker and the Ecocult team:
Choose organic and natural fibers
Look for clothing made from organic cotton, linen, and hemp. These materials are generally grown and processed without harmful pesticides and chemicals. Organic certification labels, such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), can be a reliable indicator of this.
Avoid synthetic fibers
Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are petroleum-based and often treated with various chemicals during production. These can include harmful dyes, flame retardants, and other toxic substances. Most “vegan leather” contains very toxic PVC or PUC, one plastic-free plant-based leather that Alden recommends researching is called Mirum.
Check for certifications
Certifications like GOTS, OEKO-TEX Standard 100, and Bluesign ensure that clothing is made without harmful chemicals. These certifications cover various aspects of textile production, from raw material extraction to the finished product. ToxicFreeFuture.org is another group Alden mentioned as a resource that tests products and urges legislators to mandate transparency in materials and chemicals.
Be wary of certain treatments and applications
Avoid clothing with features like wrinkle resistance, static resistance, and stain resistance, as these often involve the use of chemicals. Also, be cautious of overly bright or unnatural-looking colors, which can be a sign of heavy dye use.
Support brands that are transparent about their manufacturing processes and committed to reducing chemical use. Many eco-friendly brands prioritize non-toxic production methods and are open about their supply chains.
Wash new clothes before wearing
New clothing can have surface chemicals or residues from the manufacturing process. Washing them before wearing can help reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
Use gentle, eco-friendly laundry products
The detergents and fabric softeners you use can also contribute to chemical exposure. Choose products that are eco-friendly and free from harsh chemicals.
Practice minimalism in your wardrobe
By buying fewer but higher quality items that are made sustainably, you can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and also contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry.
Ask retailers and manufacturers about their standards and materials. Over time, the market reflects what we ask for as well as what we refuse to buy. Ask your legislators what they are doing to make clothing safer and to require transparency about the chemicals workers and wearers are exposed to.
Remember, while it’s challenging to completely eliminate exposure to all toxic chemicals in clothing, these steps can significantly reduce your risk and contribute to a healthier environment.