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3 Major Toxins Have Been Found in Popular Clothing Brands—Here's What to Know - The Healthy

3 Major Toxins Have Been Found in Popular Clothing Brands—Here's What to Know - The Healthy

3 Major Toxins Have Been Found in Popular Clothing Brands—Here's What to Know - The Healthy
Oct 05, 2022 2 mins, 20 secs

For one fast fashion brand in particular, they found that one in every five items contained unsafe levels of lead.

At the federal level, the US regulates only two chemicals for the fashion industry—lead and phthalates—and that’s only for children’s clothing.

According to Fashion FWD, The Toxic Substances Control Act requires more stringent testing and oversight around chemicals used in clothing made in the US.

As Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicology physician and the co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center explains: “Fast fashion clothing is often manufactured in developing countries that may not have stringent standards for keeping harmful chemicals out of clothing.”.

And according to the 2021 Fashion Revolution Transparency Index, only 26% of the world’s major clothing brands use a “Manufacturing Restricted Substances List,” which aims to eliminate hazardous chemicals in their factories.

In both California and New York, legislators are pushing for stricter regulation around PFAS in textile products.

Federally, the US still lags miles behind the European Union, which currently restricts 33 chemicals in textiles.

(The study authors noted that more research was needed for a closer analysis of each specific hazardous chemical of concern.) However, a 2019 peer-reviewed study looked specifically at phthalates in infant clothing and found that clothing does play an important role in exposure to textile chemicals.

“And what happens with heavy metals is that our body takes them up and stores them in our bones, our blood, and our tissues.” So, while exposure to high levels of lead is dangerous (lead poisoning can cause anemia, weakness, kidney failure, brain damage and death, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention)—prolonged, low-grade exposure can grow problematic.

The CDC says that people with long-term exposure to lead are also at a greater risk for high blood pressure, kidney disease, and heart disease.

The CDC adds that current research suggests high levels of PFAS exposure may also cause high cholesterol, low infant birth weight, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) in pregnant women, decreased vaccine response in children and an increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer.

Cates’ main recommendation to limit your chemical exposure is to avoid fast fashion retailers altogether

“Since lead is most harmful to young children, people can avoid dressing their infants and children in fast fashion clothing to avoid childhood exposures,” adds Dr

CBC: "Experts warn of high levels of chemicals in clothes by some fast-fashion retailers"

Mamavation: "Non-Toxic Activewear Guide: PFAS "Forever Chemicals" in Workout Leggings & Yoga Pants"

Fashion FWD: "Going out of fashion: US apparel manufacturers must eliminate PFAS "forever chemicals" from their supply chains"

apparel manufacturers must eliminate PFAS 'forever chemicals' from their supply chains"

Environmental Science and Pollution Research International: "Chemicals from textiles to skin: an in vitro permeation study of benzothiazole"


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