Excerpt from Killer Clothes: How seemingly innocent clothing choices can endanger your health…and how to protect yourself

Rainbow Colors, Clothes On Wooden Hangers

In this post I discuss the impact this book has had on my life, and share my musings on high street fashion versus eco style.

Without further ado, here’s the book excerpt:

“Human-made petrochemical fibres restrict and suffocate the skin, our largest and most sensitive organ, making it unable to release toxins. Most people don’t realise that the skin is our body’s most important organ of elimination.

By some estimates, we release a pound of toxins every day through our skin, assuming that it’s allowed to vent as nature intended. If we hold back any percentage of these toxins from being released, they accumulate in body fat and body organs to become like a time bomb, primed to detonate as some future health malady.

Many of the impacts on health from chemicals used in synthetic clothing are being documented in medical journals, but the studies concerned rarely receive mainstream media attention. To give just one illustration, contact dermatitis and other allergenic effects caused by skin exposure to synthetic clothing “is not only more frequent than previously thought,” according to a 2003 study in the medical journal Dermatology Online, but “is also increasing.”

This probably comes as news to you because that study, like so many others dealing with the health consequences of synthetic clothing, failed to receive the public attention it deserved due to the “Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome”; that wall of silence and denial surrounding this issue.

Clothing manufacturers, and even many toxicologists, choose to believe that absorbing tiny amounts of toxic chemicals from individual items of clothing cannot be harmful to you.

But we don’t just absorb synthetic chemicals once at a time during the average day. We are exposed to hundreds of chemicals as a result of using a wide array of consumer products on our skin that contain synthetic ingredients – particularly cosmetics and personal care products.

Many of these same chemicals are used in synthetic clothing. That means we absorb tiny amounts of chemicals repeatedly from multiple sources until they add up and reach a tipping point within us that could be harmful.

The rationalisation that “the toxin levels are too small to inflict harm,” as repeated by representatives of the synthetic clothing industry, fails to take into account the role of chemical synergies and their impact on health.

While some individual chemicals alone may not endanger your health, when chemicals from multiple sources combine and interact inside of your body, they can have unpredictable and potentially powerful effects, and serious health consequences. These synergistic processes constitute the “black hole” of ignorance within the fields of toxicology and preventative medicine.

Is it too much to expect that the clothing we allow to touch our skin should be as natural and safe as it can possibly be? Shouldn’t we be as concerned about wearing toxic chemicals as we are about ingesting or inhaling them?

All of us retain the power to minimise risks to our health by taking simple precautions and practising mindfulness about our clothing choices.

German chemist Michael Braungart and American architect William McDonough, authors of the 2002 book on ecologically intelligent design, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, described how, “textiles are quite literally woven into the fabric of life,” but our reliance on dangerous synthetics has steered us into a toxic blind alley.

“The industry that launched the Industrial Revolution has long illustrated some of its most notorious design failures,” they wrote. “About one half of the world’s wastewater problems are linked to the production of textile goods, and many of the chemicals used to dye and finish fabrics are known to harm human health. […] Often the clippings from fabric mills are so loaded with dangerous chemicals they are handled like toxic waste, while the products made from these materials are considered safe for use in the home.”

This same troubling double standard holds true for all synthetic clothing – the chemicals used to produce them are considered toxic by manufacturers and public health institutions, but the clothing produced with these chemicals is treated as safe for use on human skin.

The choices we face as consumers and stewards of the Earth should be stark and clear. Organically grown natural fibres pose few threats to human health, whereas chemical fibres and synthetic clothing contribute to a long list of documented human ailments and degenerative conditions for the planet.

Energy for the production of natural fibres comes from the sun, a renewable resource, whereas energy used to produce synthetic fibres comes mostly from fossil fuels, which generate multiple types of environmental pollutants that help to accelerate global warming.

Knowledge is the only thing that will save us from the perils of mankind’s perpetual insanity stemming from our quest for money. You’ve heard it said that we are what we eat. If so, then we are also what we choose to wear!

Every time you wear synthetic clothing, some of the chemicals used in its manufacture get into your body. Safe clothes made from natural organic fibres, by contrast, help to produce healthy bodies and healthy minds.”

Go here to read how this book has changed my life.

Killer Clothes: How seemingly innocent clothing choices can endanger your health…and how to protect yourself is by Anna Maria and Brian Clement, directors of the world-renowned Hippocrates Health Institute, and is available in both the UK and US Amazon stores.

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