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How toxic can our clothes be? Yes, yes, you got it right! Alas, toxins can be found not only in food or cosmetics, but also in your dresses and sweaters. Unfortunately, this question is rarely asked by anyone, once again going shopping. A simple experiment for example: take a look at the labels of your clothes. Most will find fabrics such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, and acetate in their closet. All these materials are toxic and, accordingly, adversely affect our health. You will learn about which fabrics to choose and which ones to permanently exclude from your wardrobe from our today’s article.

Synthetic fabrics can forever close the entrance to your home without a drop of regret. There is a process called polymerization, during which chemically obtained fibers are joined together – and synthetics are created. Such production requires a lot of chemicals and solvents, and if the material is exposed to chemical attack, this immediately means that it is dangerous at least for our skin. Polyester, nylon, viscose and acrylic – we meet the top 4 most toxic materials. We will analyze the harm of each separately.


Polyester is made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terpalic acid. Both substances are very toxic, and these toxins do not disappear from the already finished fabric after the production process. So they can easily enter our bodies, for example through wet skin. The toxic chemicals found in synthetic fabrics simply don’t allow the skin to “breathe,” and anyone who’s worn polyester on a hot summer’s day is well aware of that. However, discomfort is the lesser of evils. Skin problems take an honorable second place in the rating of polyester hazards. The title of the most dangerous “side effect” from the frequent wearing of clothes made of such material is skin cancer and other types of cancer, as well as chronic and severe respiratory infections.


When you think about viscose, a well-known material that is made from bamboo, doubts about the naturalness and safety of this fabric do not come to mind. However, in its natural state, bamboo is tough and rough, and the fibers produced from it are unusually soft and pleasant to the touch. Have you thought about how this happens? According to research done by sportswear brand Patagonia, the process of converting bamboo into its softest state, viscose fiber, releases toxic chemicals, namely carbon disulfide, sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid. And now it is unlikely that any of us will find viscose safe. And not in vain.


Because acrylic fabrics require a lot of chemicals to make, such as acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, or acrylonitrile, this means that, first of all, this fabric causes really high environmental damage. By the way, any other synthetic and mixed materials too, as they are not recycled. And secondly, acrylic fibers are polyacrylonitrile, which increases the risk of developing certain types of cancer, especially breast cancer in women. A 2010 study showed a significant increase in the risk of it in women who worked with these synthetic fibers.


The basis for the manufacture of this fabric is oil, and even knowing this detail makes you not want to wear it. If that fact isn’t enough for you, here’s a long list of chemicals used to make nylon: caustic soda, chloroform, terpineol, limonene, sulfuric acid, pentene, sulfuric acid, and even formaldehyde. This fabric is one of the least environmentally friendly textiles. So it is not at all surprising that the consequences of excessive wear of such products can be cancer, skin rashes, dizziness, headaches, pain in the spine and systemic dysfunction.

The list of harmful fabrics doesn’t end with nylon; we talked only about the most unsafe for health. Ideally, you should try to completely abandon synthetic fabrics. Keep in mind that many of these materials are created using perfluorinated chemicals such as Teflon. Scientists associate this fact with the risk of developing prostate cancer, liver and kidney disease, and diabetes.

What fabrics should be preferred?

Now that you know what to avoid, you’re probably wondering which fabrics are actually safe. Here are five of the most sustainable options:

1. Organic cotton fabric is almost 100% cellulose, which has made cotton the most popular natural fiber in the world. It easily absorbs moisture and also has high strength. Versatile fabric for daily wear.
2. Cashmere is a material that is made from the down of goats living in the highlands of Mongolia, India and China. Cashmere has small air gaps between the fibers, which makes it warm, but almost weightless. Such material easily adapts to skin temperature and is very gentle.
3. Hemp, or hemp fabric. The long, strong and durable fibers made from industrial hemp varieties contain about 70% cellulose. Hemp fiber tolerates temperature changes well, resists mold, blocks ultraviolet radiation and has natural antibacterial properties. Hemp maintains the normal heat exchange of the human body: it is not cold in winter and not hot in summer.
4. Organic wool is the world’s leading animal fiber. Wool materials are produced in about 100 different countries from the wool of several types of sheep. Some manufacturers use wool that is contaminated with chemicals and irritates the skin, but more and more clothing brands are switching to organic wool. This fabric is not only environmentally friendly and safe, it is also hypoallergenic and durable.
5. Linen fabric, like cotton, is a cellulose polymer, but this fabric is stronger due to its more crystalline structure. Linen fibers quickly absorb and release water, so linen clothing is perfect for summer days. It does not stick to the skin and is highly breathable.

Of course, it’s hard to consistently avoid all materials that science deems unsuitable for your skin or body as a whole, but being aware of the dangers of some textiles will somehow lead to wiser decisions when buying clothes.


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