I wish I had more time in my day to...oh...read the paper, the books on my bedside table and probably most importantly read up on topics that I know are important and directly relevant to my family. Organic clothing is on that list. Especially as Holly and I research children's clothing brands, we see organics as a large and growing category. We asked Anthia Nickerson the founder of UrthChild–a site that offers premier natural products for babies, children, and mothers–to tell us about organic clothing. Anthia has spent hours upon hours researching and I admire her and UrthChild's dedication to natural living and preserving our environment.
"Organic clothing has two main benefits. First, it reduces your family's exposure to harmful chemicals–everything from pesticides and chemical fertilizers to heavy metals found in dyes and appliques. Organic clothing is also not impregnated with chemicals like flame retardants and anti-wrinkle treatments. Pesticides, fertilizers, formaldehyde, flame retardants, metals, and other chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological damage, behavioral issues, and a host of other health problems, and children are the most vulnerable. The CDC estimates that 50% of a person's lifetime cancer risk is developed by the age of 2 years, and 35% of a person's lifetime exposure to pesticides has been obtained by the age of 5!
Second, because organic clothing is created in a toxin-free manner, the environment is spared pollution from these chemicals during agriculture, processing, dying, and finishing. Conventional (non-organic) cotton is one of the most polluting crops on the planet. Every year, 25% of the pesticides used in agriculture are sprayed on cotton crops. Nearly 100 billion pounds of chemicals are used in conventional US cotton agriculture each year, and half of the top 15 chemicals used in conventional cotton farming are considered cancer-causing by the Environmental Protection Agency. These pesticides eventually find their way to our water supplies where they wreak further havoc on the environment. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 3 million people suffer from pesticide poisoning, and approximately 20,000-40,000 deaths per year are attributed to pesticides. Soy- and bamboo-based fabrics are also a growing concern because of the chemicals used in either their agriculture or processing; some critics of soy have also raised concern about the increase in genetically-modified soy."
"No matter what a mom's resources and greatest wishes are, it is impossible to buy all organic clothing. When prioritizing my clothing purchases for my family, I would first try to buy organic clothing for my newborn, placing highest priority on the first layer on the baby's skin (e.g., a onesie) or anything a newborn or baby will likely chew on.
I would then try to buy organic pajamas for all children and adults. Many pajamas in the marketplace today are impregnated with flame retardant chemicals that are so harmful to our health. (If you cannot buy organic pajamas, avoid anything made from polyester, which is produced from petroleum and is highly flammable.) Organic sheets would also be an important purchase since we–especially babies and children–spend so much time sleeping.
A final area of prioritization is to buy a piece of organic clothing that has a long useful life, such as a dress that can turn into a tunic, a pair of jeans that can be worn several times a week, or a jacket that can be worn daily."
"The first thing I look for when shopping for organic clothing is its organic certification. Some clothing may be made from organic cotton, but it may have dyes with heavy metals or azo or other nasty chemicals. Looking for organic clothing certification, such as GOTS, will help you know that no toxic chemicals were allowed during the agriculture, processing, dying, and finishing of the garment. At UrthChild, we provide the organic certification information in each product description by clicking on the "UrthChild review" tab on a product's webpage.
The second thing to look for is the worrisome trend of "greenwashing." Greenwashing is affecting everything from house paint to skin care, and is a major problem in organic clothing. For example, a piece of clothing may be made out of organic bamboo, but the process of turning bamboo into fabric is chemical-intensive and very hard on the environment as the waste products during bamboo manufacturing escape into waterways and into the air. Sodium hydroxide (a major ingredient in Drano) and carbon sulfide are two chemicals used in bamboo manufacturing that are seriously harmful to human health. Some bamboo manufacturers say that they have moved to a more closed loop process to protect the environment, but many organic activists say that these newer manufacturing techniques aren't transparent and prevention of pollution cannot be easily verified. In addition, several recent scientific studies have also raised serious questions about the claims that bamboo is antibacterial and UV resistant."