PROBLEM: Artificial Fabrics
Synthetic fibers, such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic, are made from thermoplastics, which off-gas plastic molecules whenever they are heated.1 Every time you wear your favorite wrinkle-free shirt, you’re breathing in plastic.
Perfluorochemicals (PFCs), including the nonstick additive Teflon®, are often added to synthetic fabrics for durability, stain resistance, and wrinkle resistance. PFCs are very persistent in the environment—they have been found in the blood of animals and human beings all over the world.2 Like many other toxins in the home, PFCs accumulate in your body over time in concentrations that are far higher than you would experience in a single encounter with a stain-resistant fabric.
If anything in your closet is a polyester-cotton blend, it was likely treated with formaldehyde and there is a good chance it was softened with chemicals such as ammonia.3 Almost all polyester is manufactured with antimony, a carcinogen that is toxic to the heart, lungs, liver, and skin.4 And next time you’re trying to decide which color looks best on you, remember that many textile dyes and bleaches contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and chromium.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), widely regarded as the most dangerous of all plastics, is often made more flexible with the use of toxic plasticizers—typically phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors—to be used as a substitute for leather.
1 Debra Lynn Dadd, Home Safe Home, (New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004).
2 EPA, “Research Highlights,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/news/102009/news102009.html (accessed November 18, 2010)
3 Gretel H. Schueller,”From Hippie to Hip,” Audubon Magazine, http://www.audubonmagazine.org/audubonliving/audubonliving0911.html (accessed November 18, 2010).
4 William McDonough, Michael Braungart, “Transforming the Textile Industry: Victor Innovatex, Eco-Intelligent Polyester and the Next Industrial Revolution,” green@work, May-June 2002.
5 Croplife Foundation, “Pesticide Use in U.S. Crop Production: 2002,” http://www.croplifefoundation.org/Documents/... (accessed November 18, 2010).
6 Gretel H. Schueller,”From Hippie to Hip,” Audubon Magazine, http://www.audubonmagazine.org/audubonliving/audubonliving0911.html (accessed November 18, 2010).