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When buying a cotton t-shirt, consumers may think they are paying for natural and eco-friendly design, making a responsible choice. However, what they probably do not think about is what dangers brings buying clothes made of contaminated with pesticides cotton.
Pesticides are chemicals manufactured with the aim of killing, repelling or inhibiting the growth of pests by impairing biological processes essential for life. The problem is that the pesticides are hazardous not only for the pest species but also people, especially children.
The most common pesticides that are used in cotton destined for the clothing industry are: aldicarb, parathion and methamidopho. These pesticides belong to group of insecticides are currently three of the most dangerous to human health and determined by the World Health Organization as highly hazardous.
What is more, insecticides make up 60 percent of all agrochemicals applied to cotton worldwide and cotton uses 16 percent of the world’s insecticides, which is more than any other crop in the world.
Moreover the problems with clothing production are not finished in the field. During the conversion of cotton yarn into clothing, plenty of toxic chemicals are added at different stages. Chemicals are used to dye and bleach fabric and then to soften it and create finishing effects.
Numerous substances like silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia and formaldehyde are used. These chemicals affect the environment where they are used as well as the health and safety of the people working with them; they also a have effect on customers.
Every T-shirt contains ¼ pound of harmful chemicals that can cause allergies, cancer, breathing problems and many other disorders, which are especially dangerous for children.
An alternative for the fashion industry is to reduce the toxic pesticides and chemicals used to make clothes. Producers can achieve it through sourcing to organic standards and banning or phasing out the use of certain chemicals in their production processes.
Another common solution that is more and more popular is organic cotton. Organic yarn is produced without the use of harsh chemical bleaches or dyes. Natural fertilizers, compost and soil amendments and advances in natural pest control are used. Cotton produced through these processes is allergy-free but costs about 60 percent more than the standard product.
To be sure that cotton is truly organic, companies should check standards and certificates that define production requirements of organic crops. These standards assurances are provided by worldwide regulations like Global Organic Textile Standard, the Council Directive on Organic Farming Regulation or National Organic Program.
By participating in the certification process, importers and traders become aware of the documentation required to verify the authenticity of their products. As the customers we can check if the company signs their products with any of these logos.
Today’s numbers of high fashion brands as Frida Giannini, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent use organic cotton. Major clothing retailers like Wal-Mart, Harrods, Marks and Spencer, H&M, C&A, Zara, Coop Switzerland and many others offer organic clothing lines.
Recently there are a lot of new brands, which offers clothes made only from organic cotton like Blue Canoe or Seasalt.