Toxic fabrics: The Dirty Little Secrets of the Fashion Industry

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Blog | May, 11 2015

Toxic fabrics: The Dirty Little Secrets of the Fashion Industry

When you first take steps toward Reducing Your Toxic Exposure, you generally start with eating food that is grown organically and using more natural products to manage your household and surrounding environments. However, you also need to take a look at what’s inside your closets.  

It’s the dirty secret of the trillion dollar fashion industry: Our clothes are manufactured using an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals, according to The Ecologist magazine. And you already know that what goes on the skin, goes in the body.

Your skin, which is your largest organ, is constantly absorbing and releasing toxins. However, wearing chemically-laden clothing inhibits its natural ability to release toxins and, ultimately, that impacts your immune system and your health.  

In fact, these fabrics and the finishes on them are attributed to cancer, neurological brain disorder, infertility, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, severe skin ulcerations, contact dermatitis and much more, according to Consumers Against Toxic Apparel (CATA).

Here’s how to be an informed fashionista

It’s up to you to be the savvy shopper and decode what your clothing label is really telling you. If it says:

No iron or crease free: It means that perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) are used. PFCs can take several years for just half of the chemical buildup to exit the body. The EPA warns that PFCs disrupt the hormone system, reduce immune function and are carcinogenic.

Pre-shrunk, anti-cling, anti-static, waterproof, perspiration proof: It means that formaldehyde, which the EPA links to cancer, is the main chemical used to achieve these fabric features. Formaldehyde is also used to fix a fabric design, prevent dyes from running and keep garments from wrinkling or becoming mildewed during shipping. Most governments restrict formaldehyde levels in clothing — but not the U.S. China is one of the worst offenders so the “Made in China” label may be a red flag.

Moth repellent, stain resistant, fire retardant: It means that polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) are used. PBDEs are highly toxic due to their ability to accumulate in the tissues of every living organism. The most common health disorder associated with PBDEs is thyroid related since Bromide competes with Iodine and causes Iodine to be kicked out of the body.

Acrylic fabrics: It means that the fabric was produced using the chemical polyacrylonitrile. The EPA has stated that effects of inhaling polyacrylonitrile are similar to cyanide.

Color with blue dyes: It means that you should be aware that disperse blue 1 may have been used. It is classified as a human carcinogen since it produces high levels of malignant tumors in lab organic clothinganimals.

It comes down to this: The more synthetic clothing you wear, the greater your risk of absorbing toxic chemicals that may harm your health. While individual chemicals might not put your health at risk, the effects of chemicals interacting and creating unpredictable and negative outcomes can. 

Take control of what you put on your skin

Fortunately, there are many organizations that are putting pressure on the fashion industry to make some changes. Greenpeace launched the Detox Now campaign  several years back and some major clothing labels have committed to comply – by 2020. That’s not soon enough. So here are a few things that you can do to drastically reduce your toxic overload related to what you wear:

  1. Steer clear of easy care and flame retardant clothing.
  2. Start getting rid of synthetic clothing – polyesters, acetate blends and dark colors.
  3. Look for the country of origin and type of fabric used.
  4. Buy clothing made from natural fibers like hemp, organic cotton, flax, silk and wool. Be sure that your cotton is organic because cotton is considered one of the world’s “dirtiest” crops due to its heavy use of insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Alpaca, angora, cashmere, mohair, ramie and jute are also good fabric choices.

Most important, don’t be overwhelmed. Start replacing your wardrobe with clothing closest to your skin – underwear, sleepwear, camisoles, etc. From there, you can slowly re-build your wardrobe with safe and non-toxic materials that let your skin “breathe”.

Dr. Veronique Desaulniers, better known as Dr. V, is the founder of The 7 Essentials System ™, a step-by-step guide that teaches you exactly how to prevent and heal Breast Cancer Naturally. To get your F.R.E.E. 7 day mini e-course, and to receive her inspiring articles on the power of Natural Medicine, visit




3 thoughts on “Toxic fabrics: The Dirty Little Secrets of the Fashion Industry

  1. Hello,


    First thank you so much for the awareness you are bringing around the topic!
    I recently discovered the hazard of synthetic fibers after a very close family member got diagnosed with Breast cancer, and now trying to slowly eliminate synthetic fibers from my life.
    The only brand I was able to find that is kind of affordable and has practical clothing is Pact; and many of their items use 95% organic cotton with 5% elastane. Is that ok? It feels to me based on the research I’ve been doing that it’s impossible to go for 100% cotton for everything; can you please let me know whether that’s ok, and if not, recommend other brands that might provide that.

    Thank you so much and have a beautiful day!

  2. I also want to say that it’s great you’re bringing more attention to this topic. I wish there was some type of universal clothing label system that communicated this type of information, similar to what we have for laundry care instructions.

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