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Warning about various toxic substances contained in chemical fibers

Scenery of a textile factory in China

Scenery of a textile factory in China

(Seoul = Larose.VIP) Reporter Lee Se-won = Modern people pay close attention to the safety of food. On the other hand, when it comes to clothes that cover the skin 24 hours a day, aesthetics and functionality are considered first.

Alden Wicker, a journalist and fashion expert, warns us to open our eyes to the dangers hidden in chemical fibers in his new book, ‘We Wear Death Every Day’ (Booky), which was recently translated and published.

According to the book, a strong signal that clothing poses a threat to health came from the aviation industry. After Alaska Airlines changed its uniforms in 2011, hundreds of flight attendants were diagnosed with cancer. In 2016, several months after American Airlines issued new uniforms to its flight attendants, several people started getting sick. Uniforms made from chemical fibers cause problems for many airlines.

Judith Anderson, an industrial hygienist with the Safety, Health and Security Department of the American Association of Flight Attendants, sent 60 fabric samples cut from different parts of Alaska Airlines’ new uniforms to a lab at the University of Washington, where a total of 97 chemical compounds were identified. In addition to lead, arsenic, cobalt, antimony, and toluene, it contained disperse dyes whose use is restricted because they are known to cause allergic reactions, dimethyl fumarate, an antifungal agent banned in the European Union (EU), and hexavalent chromium, a carcinogenic heavy metal. However, the University of Washington determined that most chemicals were contained below the level that causes irritation.

Alaska Airlines aircraft

Alaska Airlines aircraft

The book focuses on the fact that when the concentration of each dye is added, a ‘additive effect’ can occur that has a greater effect than when it exists alone. However, the textile industry sets separate usage limits for each chemical. Even if the hazard exceeds the limit as a result of mixing several substances, it is not a problem as long as the individual substance is below the limit according to industry standards.

An analysis commissioned by Germany’s Hohenstein Institute, one of the most renowned in the field of textile toxicity, makes the problem clearer. It was found that the dye, Disperse Orange 37/76, in uniform textile samples exceeded the EU limit of 50 mg per kg by more than 10 times.

The book points out that the uniforms that caused health problems for flight attendants had something in common. It has waterproof, anti-pollution, anti-wrinkle, anti-mould, anti-odor functions, and adopts bright, saturated colors that symbolize the airline, applying the latest chemical processes layer by layer, and forming a powerful combination of finishing materials and dyes.

It is easy to recognize the symptoms of flight attendants because several people wear the same clothes and live in a closed environment, but for the general public, the clothes they wear change every day, so it is not easy to recognize or prove the effects of chemicals contained in fibers.

Alden Wicker and his books

Alden Wicker and his books

For example, in 2008, hundreds of women filed a class action lawsuit against underwear brand Victoria’s Secret, claiming that the bras caused them severe rashes or left permanent scars. As a result of the test, formaldehyde was found in some products, but Victoria’s Secret claimed that this ingredient was absent or at a very low level, and the plaintiff lost the case.

At first glance, it may be difficult for the general public to understand the claim that clothes that come into contact with skin, not just food, pose a threat to health or life. The book introduces the dark history of fashion that has given up health and safety for fashion and profit, such as using toxic arsenic compounds to make brilliant green pigments or adding nitrobenzene, which causes cyanosis when inhaled in high doses, into black shoe polish. We urge a change in perception.

London Fashion Week fashion show

London Fashion Week fashion show

What should fashion consumers do? The author recommends avoiding materials that start with ‘poly’, such as polyvinyl chloride, polyester, polyamide, and polyurethane, as well as nylon and acrylic, and choosing natural materials such as silk, cashmere, linen, wool, and alpaca. They also advise checking whether the product is certified by organizations that certify companies that use safe chemicals, such as Ocotex or Bluesign. Avoiding clothes with high saturation or overly bright colors and washing new clothes with unscented detergent before wearing them are also recommended as ways to lower the risk. Wearing used clothes is also considered an effective way to avoid harmful chemicals.

Translated by Kim Eun-ryeong. Page 404.

book cover image

book cover image

sewonlee@yna.co.kr

Report to KakaoTalk okjebo 2024/02/19 07:00 Sent

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