There are all sorts of sneaky toxin sources that hinder our ability to live healthily and happily.
All too many industrially manufactured products seem to trade safety for convenience or short-term enjoyment.
You’re probably already familiar with many of the “toxins of convenience” that should be avoided: GMO foods (which allow for better short-term crop yields), preservatives (which increase shelf life, and thus the manufacturer’s bottom line), cleaning supplies, flame retardants in beds…and the list goes on.
But here’s one that may not have shown up on your radar yet: wrinkle-free clothing.
Ever wonder how wrinkle-free shirts stay so neat and fresh?
I wish I could tell you that it’s because of some revolutionary manufacturing method that alters the fabric’s properties without the use of noxious chemicals.
Here’s the unfortunate truth, though: wrinkle-free clothing is treated with perfluorinated chemicals (or PFCs, which contain Teflon), sulphuric acid, and even a resin that releases formaldehyde (which is also used as an embalming fluid).
These chemicals strengthen the integrity of the fabric, thus allowing it to more readily resist wrinkling. In return, our clothing is left with chemical residues, which can cause headaches, respiratory issues, eye irritation, rashes, itchy skin, blisters, and a skin condition known as contact dermatitis.
And by the way, the National Cancer Institute classifies formaldehyde as a confirmed human carcinogen. That’s right: you can add your wrinkle-free clothing to the long list of potential cancer-causing agents.
It’s certainly nice not to have to iron our clothing all the time…but are these risks really worth the convenience?
How to protect yourself
When questioned about their use of formaldehyde and other potentially harmful chemicals, many manufacturers and retailers claim that their clothing is perfectly safe. They cite stringent standards that govern the allowable chemical levels in their clothing.
Nevertheless, the Government Accountability Office examined 180 random items and found that 5.5% had formaldehyde levels beyond what is considered safe for skin contact (75 parts per million).
And the U.S. doesn’t regulate the use of formaldehyde in clothing, so the assumption that most clothing is safe may be a dangerous one.
The risk of adverse health effects seems low (unless you’re allergic to formaldehyde), and cancer has never been directly linked to chemical-treated clothing. Nevertheless, it may still be a risk worth avoiding.
After all, do you really want to support a clothing company that coats their products in toxic embalming fluid—just for the sake of convenience?
Your body has enough environmental toxins to deal with already; help lighten its load by ditching chemical-laden clothes.
If you can’t bear the thought of giving up your wrinkle-free clothing, at least be sure to thoroughly wash it before wearing it (ideally, wash it twice). There will most likely always be traces of formaldehyde left in the fabric, but its overall levels will be dramatically reduced.
Above all else, take responsibility for your health choices, and be aware of their effects. Recognize how powerful it can be to place health and vitality over convenience. From this vantage point, ironing your clothes might seem like a small and worthwhile sacrifice.