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Fashion dyes hide over 250 restricted substances and are responsible for over 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater in China only. Furthermore, 200 tonnes of water are used per tonne of fabric in the textile industry. Here’s the true cost of colour in our clothes and how we can individually tackle some of the solutions!
The fashion industry is dyeing and we don’t mean the death of the high street or the downfall of buying in person due to the pandemic. No, we mean literally dyeing. Fashion dyes are filling our planet with toxic chemicals to dye clothes. So in short it is actually leading animals, nature, and even people to die.
The fashion industry, especially the toxic dyes in clothing, is responsible for over 2.5bn gallons of wastewater, in China alone (Remake, 2018). Over 250 ‘restricted substances’ have been found in textile manufacturing that poses potential health concerns including chemicals such as aldicarb, petroleum, radioactive metals, NPEs, and azo dyes (Mindbodygreen.com,2019). Documentaries like ‘A True Cost’ and ‘River Blue’ have appealed for change due to the deadly knock-on effects to the population, as aquatic life has been wiped out and a lack of uncontaminated drinking water for locals only amplifies the water crisis further.
Irrespective of the environmental impacts, the toxic chemicals found in these dyes have been linked to illnesses such as breast cancer and endometriosis if worn on the skin for long periods. Founder of the Fashion Revolution movement, Carry Sommers warned that: ‘These toxic chemicals are endocrine disruptors which could potentially affect our health and fertility. The body burden of chemicals is passed on from mother to child, with levels of some hazardous chemicals increasing from generation to generation.’
To add to this environmental disaster, washing clothes that have these chemical dyes, as well as synthetic fabrics, can release up to 700,000 microplastics into the ocean and these dyes can be dispersed alongside them causing disruption to the food chain. Think water pollution, fish drinking this water, fish consumed by humans, and humans ingesting these chemicals and plastics which are harming us for generations to come…So what is the remedy?
Alternatives to the toxic dyes in clothing
1. Buy brands that use zero chemicals
TryKind Clothing creates underwear and loungewear that is healthy to wear, happily made by local artisans and has zero chemicals involved throughout the whole process. Originating in India and stemming from Ayurveda – alternative holistic medicine, the dyeing process of Ayurvasta uses the same plants used in Ayurveda that have healing agents which can soothe as well as boost the wearers’ immunity, minimize skin disorders and relax muscles.
All the ingredients for the dyes are locally sourced from the jungle next to the artisan village in Balramapuram, Kerala. The artisans cleverly replace the use of chemicals with minerals to fixate dyes, to soften fabrics it’s natural oils and to bleach they use sunlight.
Other brands that are incredibly awesome with their natural clothing dyes are Mandala Dream Co. with their awesome handmade linen; or Hara the Label bringing an underwear collection for women, and even the beautiful luxury fashion brand Rare & Fair with their sustainably handmade dresses.
2. Buy second-hand clothing – thrifting is a winner!
Buying secondhand or vintage will always be a great alternative to boycott the overconsumption of toxic chemicals, fabric waste to minimize the CO2 footprint of a product. The dyes used in secondhand products may not be originally healthy or nontoxic but it has been found that they tend to shed less microplastics and dye chemicals after multiple washes so can be better for the environment than a new product (Plymouth University, 2016).
3. Use of natural detergents for your clothes
Using gentle detergents and alternative bio-washing powders can also help to minimize the amount of toxic chemicals harming the environment and eventually our bodies. Soap nuts are a natural washing method made from berries. Ecoegg is a newer contraption that can trap plastics and uses natural pallets instead of toxic chemicals. Here is an ultimate guide with all the zero waste detergents brands using toxin-free laundry alternatives.
As Anne-Marie Bonneau once said, ‘We don’t need a handful of people being sustainable perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly’. Your impact can make the smallest difference so making small changes in your wash, your clothing choices and your lifestyle can minimize the fashion industry’s dirty secret of dyeing the world.