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Home • MOTHER EARTH  • HEALTHY FASHION (II): “How to recognize toxic synthetic fabrics”

HEALTHY FASHION (II): “How to recognize toxic synthetic fabrics”

Are the clothes we wear nowadays good for our health? Or, on the contrary, are they a hindrance to our evolution, both as individuals and as a society?

After noticing a general void of meaning in fashion, American author and fashion expert Alyssa Couture offers a completely new, even revolutionary vision. Its health-centred approach is holistic. She goes beyond the facts, delving into the intangible to take stock of the situation. We’ll discover her thoughts synthesized into 4 parts in this series entitled “Healthy Fashion”, taken from the name of her book: “Healthy Fashion, The Deeper Truths”..

Alyssa Couture, author of “Healthy Fashion, The Deeper Truths”.

“These are exciting times. It’s the perfect time to introduce healthy fashion concepts. Healthy Fashion is an enlightening guide to this modern era. We’re in a time of spiritual and planetary awakening, and the fashion industry is in transition right now. Healthy Fashion promotes a new way of producing and consuming, with the aim of healing body, mind and spirit.”

In this second section, we look at the toxicity of synthetic products.

The textile industry will be 95% synthetic by 2025

In 1980, in the early days of fast fashion5.2 million tonnes of polyester were produced worldwide. By 2000, it had risen to 19.2 million tonnes. By 2014, it had risen to 46.1 million tonnes and, according to forecasts, by 2025, the textile industry will be 95 percent synthetic.

“We might as well say that if fashion doesn’t start including natural, plant-based fibers now, the changes won’t happen”,

Alyssa Couture

We know that synthetic fabrics are endocrine disruptors to varying degrees. They can weaken mind and body, contributing to illness and suffering. However, as Alyssa Couture reminds us in her book: “There’s no reason to blame anyone for continuing to produce or wear unhealthy clothing”, as the information is still new to the collective.
Because, of course, we’re living in a transitional, uncomfortable period, and it’s not a question of changing everything overnight (that would be impossible), but of accompanying these lasting changes as we become aware of them.

“In cold climates, many people can’t tolerate the tingling and itching of wool on their skin, even though it’s a natural material. They prefer to wear thermoregulating garments, most often synthetics, which are also pleasant to wear when they are loose-fitting and ergonomic.

These pieces even manage to have a “comfortable and healthy” effect on the mind. But then again, it’s all about transition,” says Alyssa Couture.

She points out that global production of synthetic fabrics accounts for 65% of all textiles produced each year. Cotton is 21% produced, and 94% genetically modified .

Viscose (formerly called rayon) accounts for 8% of production. Plant-based, viscose has qualities similar to cotton and silk.
In spite of this, the fiber is synthetically manufactured, being composed of 90% cellulose. Due to its chemical composition, it can be classified as semi-synthetic.

“Today, only 5 percent of textile production includes plant-based fabrics, such as linen and hemp. Around one percent of textile production is wool. And when polyester, nylon, acrylic and viscose rayon are blended, they make up a total of 73 percent of synthetic textile garment production.”

The toxicity of synthetic fabrics

Let’s go back to the ethymology of the word chemistry. Chemistry is concerned with the composition of all the substances that make up our universe, their properties and their transformations. In essence, everything can be called a ” chemical”. Not to be confused with a toxicproduct. On the other hand, not all natural substances are healthy to begin with and can be toxic to the body.

“However, chemicals are modified to such a degree that they become toxic synthetic substances. Not all chemicals are bad. For example, many vitamins are synthetic and artificial.
They are not natural, but they are beneficial and healthy for the body. Like synthetic vitamins, many man-made chemicals in textiles are healthy and non-toxic,” says Alyssa Couture.

Certainly, it is possible to continue producing fabrics with chemicals, but they must be non-toxic, or made with plant-based chemicals. So ban unhealthy fabrics such as polyester (and all “poly…” fabrics being petroleum derivatives), as well as nylon, acrylic, rayon and synthetic fabrics derived from sugar. Ingeo™.

Here are some harmful materials:

Polyester is petroleum-based and inexpensive to produce. When polyester garments are heated, whether by machine drying or body heat, the embedded chemicals release plastic fibers. Polyester fabrics make it difficult for the skin to breathe.

They also generally create an absence of movement, a non-ergonomic textile property. We often notice lint scattered on the floor from these tissues, which end up being inhaled through the nose and mouth. It’s important to realize that tiny particles of fragmented fibers and chemicals from dyes and fabric treatments can seep into the skin’s pores. These particles then disperse into the bloodstream and the rest of the system.

Nylon is also a petroleum-based fiber, containing toxic chemicals such as cyclohexane and ammonia. Body temperature can potentially release these toxins. “On the other hand, nylon production creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Nylon doesn’t break down easily, but it gives off a thick, dangerous smoke when burned.

Acrylic, another petroleum-based fiber. This is the least breathable of the synthetic fibers. It often has a strong odor of toxic fumes emanating from it… In 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested acrylic, and found that residual monomers in acrylic can be carcinogenic.

Viscose is made from plant cellulose, but is chemically transformed. The cellulose pulp used to make viscose is converted into fiber using heavy chemicals. “Converting cellulose with a chemical solvent makes it artificial.
And after treatment of the fiber with toxic chemicals such as ammonia, acetone, carbon sulfide, sulfuric acid, chlorine and caustic soda, there’s no way to distinguish natural plant parts from other chemical parts. In this case, lyocell is a healthier option.”

Ingeo™ sugar-derived synthetic fabrics, are corn-based biosynthetic fabrics and are genetically modified. “In fashion, biobased synthetic fabrics will be an important trend, since they will be able to replace petroleum-based products, with the exception of biobased fabrics derived from sugar. Indeed, the materials used and the processing methods for its transformation make these fabrics harmful to wear.”

To conclude this episode, the author points out that from 1 to 5 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur on genetically modified tissue every year, with an average of 220,000 deaths annually. And 99% of these deaths occur in modern societies…

Photo credit: Alyssa Couture

Watch the 1st episode “Healthy Fashion (I): plants are the future of fashion”, here

Read all about ethical fashion in our magazine