Ask the expert: How to avoid toxics in clothes?
Go for clothes marked with an eco-label – and avoid clothes with uncertain prints.
Every week, Make it last’s sustainability expert Anna Brismar of Green Strategy answers questions about fashion and sustainability. Read more about what sustainable fashion really is, or at least how we define it with the help of Anna, here.
How does one to the greatest extent possible avoid toxics in clothes?
– Toxics can be added to a garment throughout its production, from early fiber cultivation to final garment finishing. For example, agricultural chemicals have been found in conventional cotton t-shirts, and chemical residues may remain in woolen sweaters from sheep spraying. Other chemicals in garments may originate from dyeing and washing practices, or from various functional treatments, such as anti-wrinkle, anti-static or anti-bacterial treatments. Yet, there are some good ways to avoid these toxic substances in our clothes:
First, go for clothes marked with an eco-label. In Sweden, there are several eco-labels in use for textiles: the Swedish Bra Miljöval, the Nordic Svanen, the EU Ecolabel, the international “GOTS”, or the Oeko-Tex 1000. All of these labels guarantee that the garment has been produced without any pesticides or herbicides used in fiber production. Also, these labels guarantee that the garment has been manufactured with no or limited use of hazardous chemicals in spinning, dyeing, wet processes etc. For example, GOTS-labelled garments do not contain any heavy metals, halogenated and aromatic solvents, nano particles, phtalates, bisphenol A or any other known bio-accumulating substances.
Secondly, go for fabrics that have been manufactured in a European country. In general, environmental legislations are stricter and more highly controlled in Europe than in for example Southeast Asia. This means that the processes of fabric dyeing, washing and finishing have followed stricter regulations regarding chemical use. If the origin of the fabric is not given, try and ask the store personnel.
Thirdly, avoid clothes with uncertain prints. There are various ways in which prints can be added to a garment. Yet, there is often no information inside the garment as to the quality of the print. For example, is it made of hazardous pastes or plastic chemicals, or is it made of safe natural dyes? We seldom know for sure and it is therefore better to avoid any garment with uncertified prints, especially for children’s clothes.
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