Toxic chemicals permeate our consumer products, air, ground, water, and even our bedding and clothes. Exposure to commonly used chemicals can accumulate in our bodies from each of these sources and cause short-term and long-term damage.
Chemical exposures to the developing fetus, infants, and children are the greatest concern.
Therefore, to keep our exposure to toxic chemicals and contaminants to the minimum amount possible, it’s important not to buy or use bedding and clothing containing toxins and to clean them without using toxic chemicals.
Wash before wear. New clothes should always be washed before wearing for the first time. In a 2010 segment Good Morning America tested new clothes from three popular stores and found high levels of bacteria, germs, bodily fluids, and other contaminants.
Don’t dry clean. Perchloroethylene (commonly known as Perc) is one of the toxic chemicals used in conventional dry cleaning. In a report by The International Agency for Research in Cancer [PDF], the World Health Organization states that “Perc is probably carcinogenic to humans.” Exposure to Perc can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and cause headaches and dizziness. As a result, it is advisable to limit bedding and clothes purchases to those that don’t require dry cleaning or find professional cleaners who use “green” processes such as wet cleaning, liquid CO2, or liquid silicone.
Use non-toxic laundry detergent. Natural and non-toxic laundry detergents are now widely available in most retailers. It is also quite easy and inexpensive to mix homemade detergent from bar soap, borax, washing soda, and water.
Avoid flame-retardant clothing. Children’s pajamas and other bedding and clothing coated with flame retardants may contain polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs have been used since the 1960s and are synthetic compounds used as additives to retard fire and flames in a variety of commercial and household products. These toxic chemicals are endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins. They have been linked to liver tumors, neurodevelopmental, and thyroid dysfunctions.
Skip stain-resistant and water-repellant clothing. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are a family of fluorine-containing, man-made chemicals used in many fabrics to repel grease, oil, and water. Associations have been found between PFCs and reproductive problems, reduced birth weight, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increased total and non-HDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and changes in thyroid hormone levels. When possible, choose items that have not been treated with PFCs — including brand names Gore-Tex, Scotchgard, and Teflon — for water or stain resistance, such as outerwear, sheets, shoes, and sportswear. There are a growing number of manufacturers offering fluorine-free alternatives.
Choose organic bedding and clothing. Most farmers of cotton and other plants used to manufacture textiles treat their crops with synthetic pesticides. Additionally, other chemicals may be used to bleach, dye, and decorate bedding and clothing. Residual chemicals from the farming or manufacturing processes may irritate the skin when worn and contribute to the total body burden of many common toxins. However, organic alternatives composed of bamboo, cotton, jute, silk, ramie, or wool and manufactured with water-based dyes are increasingly available.
Chemicals Accident image from BigStock