"Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment."
- Alexander McQueen
If you value good health, you may want to rethink your next pair of jeans. Though denim seems like a simple casual fashion choice, easy to pair with a range of colors and patterns, there is a darker side hiding beneath the surface. Jeans contain high levels of toxic chemicals that are absorbed into your lungs and skin as you wear them.
At one time, denim was dyed with a natural plant-based pigment known as indigo. Today, a synthetic version of the dye is more common. In fact, manufacturers use several thousand tons of synthetic indigo every year. It is essential for creating the popular stonewashed and acid wash styles.
In addition to being more readily available, the synthetic indigo makes the dying process faster. It also makes dyed denim more toxic. Studies suggest that synthetic indigo may release cancer-causing phthalates and aromatic amines. The more you are exposed to phthalates, and the greater the amount, the more dangerous the effects become. As you wear your new pair of jeans, more and more phthalates are absorbed into your skin. The darker denims—black, brown, and deep blue—also contain the highest concentrations of p-Phenylenediamine a chemical known for triggering allergies and contact dermatitis.
Furthermore, a substance known as mordant must be used to bind the synthetic indigo to the material. Mordant is high in toxic heavy metals like aluminum and chromium.
Have you ever noticed a telltale scent associated with new jeans? What you are smelling is most likely formaldehyde. Considered a systemic poison, formaldehyde is easily absorbed by your lungs (cdc.gov). Yet it is still widely used in the manufacturing of clothing and home goods. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen as well as a respiratory system and skin irritant associated with burns to the skin or eyes.
And the danger doesn’t end there. The denim manufacturing process pollutes our environment. According to a Forbes report, the production of your typical pair of jeans uses genetically modified cotton, toxic dyes, and over 1,800 gallons of water. The tainted wastewater is eventually released into our waterways. The chemicals found in this water are harmful to humans, animals, and even plants. Not to mention all the pesticides and herbicides used to grow the genetically modified cotton in the first place.
It's not just the chemicals that make jeans toxic. For decades, people have reached for tight-fitting jeans. This has become more prevalent since skinny jeans took center stage a decade or so ago. Wearing tight clothing can cause not only discomfort, skin irritation, or itching, but also serious problems such as nerve damage, infections, and infertility.
Skip the jeans in favor of more comfortable, breathable fabrics instead. If you must have denim, find a responsible, organic brand you can trust. Be sure to select a pair with a looser fit.
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What To Remember:Jeans are made with toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that are absorbed by your skin and lungs.
Wearing tight clothing creates additional health risks like chafing and nerve damage.
Choose clothing made of breathable, organic fabrics to protect your health and comfort.
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References:Who, What, Why: Are skinny jeans bad for your health? (June 2015). BBC.com: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33238110
Bendix, Aria. (July, 2019). 7 toxic chemicals hiding in your waterproof, stain-resistant, and wrinkle-free clothes.com: https://www.businessinsider.com/toxic-chemicals-in-clothes-cancer-2019-7
Rinkesh. Is Denim Eco-Friendly? Conserve Energy Future: https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/is-denim-eco-friendly.php
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