Fashion statement in today’s world has changed. Now we change clothes like we eat lunch and dinner. No doubt humans are the most fashionable animal in the universe. While we buy clothes to fly, we make the mother earth to cry.
No doubt textile is one of the largest industries & the second largest one providing considerable employment for a huge number of people in India – just after agriculture. It’s also a major foreign currency earner for India. During manufacturing, a textile undergoes a long process of chemical treatments. The discharge from these industries is not only polluting the environment but also affecting living entity including humans in the earth.
Today we are going to check our top 5 toxic chemicals frequently used in clothing process from ginning to apparel.
- Alkylphenols: One type of surfactant used in Textile Industry as scouring, coating or waterproofing agents. Research has proved it as an Endocrine Disruptor – linked to reproductive health issues leading to termination of pregnancy or foetal growth defects. It is also toxic to aquatic organisms.
- Phthalates: Phthalates are mainly found in the materials used to print images onto clothing. Later they accumulate in the factory water wastes causing severe river or ground water toxicity. Phthalates are weak Endocrine Disruptors and Androgen Blocking Chemicals. They can block female hormones & in males suppress the hormones involved in sexual development. Children under age of three are more at risk from Phthalates.
- Azo dyes: Very common synthetic dyes used for colouring clothes, leather and textiles. This dye breaks down during use and releases chemicals known as Aromatic Amines. Close study of AZO has linked carcinogenicity with this dye; workers handling AZO were reported with bladder cancer.
- Formaldehyde: An aldehyde that keeps clothes looking fresh & new while in transit. This finishing chemical makes the clothes more stain resistant. This is a potentially dangerous carcinogenic substance. Too much of it in textiles can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation. Breathing it in can cause sneezing, coughing and others like eye, nose and throat irritation. Formaldehyde can cause skin rashes and a condition called Contact Dermatitis on skin contact.
- Heavy metals: Like cadmium, lead, copper, nickel, cobalt, chromium etc. are widely used in synthetic dye production. These heavy metals can damage DNA, be carcinogenic, and cause neurological disorders in humans. Heavy metals are non-biodegradable & displace essential nutrients. Sometimes they act as pseudo-elements affecting normal metabolic activities.