Most Common Chemicals in Clothes

Most Common Chemicals in Clothes

You are shopping for a new dress or a new suit and you want a stain resistant and wrinkle resistant fabric. What are you really putting on your skin when you buy such a product? What health considerations are you sacrificing in the name of convenience? Formaldehyde, a ‘frank’ carcinogen shown in lab testing of animals to cause cancer, is but one of the toxic chemicals used in these fabrics. Most clothing is now manufactured in China where permissible levels of formaldehyde are higher than EPA standards for U.S manufacturers.

Children are particularly vulnerable to chemical sensitivities triggered by the clothing they wear, especially if they are required to wear uniforms during the school year. Many school uniforms are coated with a family of chemicals called PFC’s that give fabrics stain resistance and the ‘non-iron’ wrinkle resistance often found in school trousers and skirts. These perfluorinated compounds have been classified as probable cancer-causative agents by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As clothes containing these chemicals become worn with repeated washings and wear, the chemicals migrate from the fabric and become particles that can be absorbed or inhaled by children. “Without knowing it, parents are exposing their children to toxic chemicals in clothing that could have serious future consequences for their health and the environment,” declared Dr. Richard Dixon, head of the environmental group WWF Scotland, in a 2004 media alert. “Children are usually more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals than adults, so the presence of these substances in school clothing is particularly alarming.”

Studies done by the Environmental Working Group in the U.S. have detected PFOA, one of the common Teflon-like chemicals, in the blood of 96 percent of all Americans tested. Another study by the same organization in 2004, using umbilical cord blood donated by U.S. hospitals, found the eight types of perfluorochemicals in nearly all of the samples, demonstrating that mothers absorb the chemicals during every day activities and then transfer the toxins directly into the fetuses they carry.

The long term health consequences of this contamination in the unborn remains in the realm of speculation for two reasons: these contaminants are now so prevalent in humans and wildlife that they can’t be separated from the presence of other toxic chemicals being absorbed simultaneously; and these chemicals were only introduced into clothing and other consumer products within the past few decades, so we don’t have much evidence generated by a lifetime of use. But we feel assured that PFC’s absorbed from clothing and other sources can’t be healthy for children or the rest of us.

How Tight Clothing Affects your Health

This is an important topic to note especially for women.  Particularly in today’s society where tight clothing and itsy bitsy cinching and push-up garments are on-trend.  When trends and new products come into the marketplace, we do not always think about how they directly impact our health or our environment but they can have significant effects that we all should be aware of.

What are some examples of tight clothing that can affect our health?

Garments such as girdles, corsets, shapewear, bras and underwear are of the most restricting; however our everyday clothing and accessories such as tight jeans, leggings, tank tops, and shoes can also hinder our health.  Additionally, tight clothing made of synthetic fibers can also affect us.

How do these garments impact our health?

Garments that are restricting such as corsets, shapewear, and most bras can cause strained organs, compressed rib cages, and serious health issues with the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems.

Bras evolved out of the evolution of the corset.  As the fashion of the corset squeezed the breasts and forced them upward, this look soon became the attraction behind the corset and eventually led to the design of the brassiere.  Little did women know, the vanity of wearing a slimming corset or a push up brassiere has a detrimental effect on one’s health.

Most women wear bras to support the breasts and prevent them from sagging; wearing bras however does the opposite of this.  Most bras are restrictive and do not allow the breasts and breast tissue to move naturally along with a women’s daily activities.  Because of this, the supportive ligaments surrounding the breasts weaken and lose the ability to hold up the breasts.  Ever heard of the saying, “If you don’t use it you lose it”?  This is what happens when the breast tissue around the breasts are constantly supported by a bra and are not able to get their daily “workout” from the natural up and down movement.  Additionally, the restriction from bras are harmful because the breasts are one of the largest lymph areas in a women’s body.  (The lymph is a colorless fluid which bathes the tissues and drains into the bloodstream.) The lymph is what clears the body of toxins and harmful cells which produce many health issues including cancers such as cancer of the breast.  If the breasts are not able to move naturally and stimulate the lymph to flow, these toxins and harmful cells build up and health issues arise.

The same issues arise from wearing tight pants, tops, socks, etc as they can cut off your circulation and hinder your lymph flow/drainage in your body.

As for tight shoes/heals, wearing tight shoes can lead to medical problems such as blisters or sores that can cause infections, bunions or hammertoes, corns, heel pain, toes that cross over each other (deformed toes), ingrown toenails, toenail infection, shortened achilles heel, swollen ankles, sore feet, complications with Diabetes, and athlete’s foot.

Clothing made out of synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon also affect our health as they do not allow our skin to breathe and detoxify.  Furthermore, these fabrics hold in heat; which in certain areas of our body such as those where we wear our bras and underwear, these areas are specifically important to keep a stable/regulated temperature.

What are better options of clothing to wear that is a healthier alternative?  

Obviously, looser fitting clothing is a better option along with clothing made out of natural fibered materials.  Natural fabrics such as those made from cotton (preferably organic cotton) and hemp are breathable to the skin and most natural fibers are also naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.  Additionally, wearing loose-fitting comfortable shoes that allow your feet to breathe is important in supporting your body’s structure as well as keeping foot problems at bay.


Hopefully, from the story above of how the brassiere evolved, you correlated a link with the fact that societal trends are not always the best to follow.  Before hopping on the bandwagon with the latest style, make sure that it is conducive to supporting your body’s structure, as well as its lymph flow and detoxification.


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