Scary Chemicals.

10 10 2007

This is one of the things we found out early on: Chemicals are used in the manufacturing process – they’re used a lot.

The 2007 AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists) Buyer’s Guide lists about 2,000 chemical specialties in over 100 categories offered for sale by about 97 companies, not including dyes. The types of products offered run the gamut from antimicrobial agents and binders to UV stabilizers and wetting agents.

Some of the more common types of processing assistants in use include:

Preparation:

wetting,
scouring (solvent-free),
desize auxiliary,
chelates and sequesterants,
emulsifiers.

Dyeing:

dispersant,
leveler,
lubricant,
emulsifier,
wetters,
retarder and accelerant
softener,
compatibilizer,
carrier,
buffer
acid,
alkali,
antimigrant and fixative,
defoamer.

Finishing:

resin,
catalyst
softener
builder

A quick assessment of the processing assistants and dyes offered include products which contain many chemicals which have been proven to be toxic, or to cause cancers or genetic mutations in mammals (i.e., us too), such as:

• Chloroform
• Dichloromethane or Methylene chloride
• Cyanide
• Chlorobenzene
• Toluene or Toluol
• Benzene
• Tetrachloroethylene
• Formaldehyde
• Naphtha
• heavy metals: mercury, lead, cadmium, among others
PBDE’s and DFR’s

We were stunned. The fabrics in our homes might be off-gassing dioxin, which was the active ingredient in Agent Orange. That might have been my personal tipping point.

So the organic fiber which arrived at the mill was pummeled with the toxic cocktail, and the finished fabric has residues from these chemicals. If your fabric says “organic cotton” but makes no mention of the processing of the fabric, it might very well mean that the fabric is emitting VOCs as the chemical residues from the processing evaporate into the air. The evaporation rates vary by chemical, with some lasting as long as many years. You might also absorb the chemicals through skin contact with the fabric. Either way, your organic fiber was seriously compromised.

When I couldn’t find any fabric that didn’t have these unwanted chemical additives – well, o.k. I could find some, but I wouldn’t want them in my living room – we decided to do it ourselves. That’s the story. We’re not perfect; it’s a very complicated process. But we’ll let you know where we are each step of the way so you can choose with full knowledge of our processes and what our fabrics might be doing to you or the planet.


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4 responses

2 12 2008
Kirsten Flynn

This post reminds me of a bumper sticker: “if you aren’t outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Sometimes I worry that I sound like a paranoid cranky old lady, especially when I don’t hold back talking about these things. But who gave permission for these things to be in our homes?
One of the reasons I teach about sustainable interior design, is that I want there to be information available, for everyone, not just for those who have the inclination or budget to hire me as a designer.
Many Congrats on the top 10, from EBN

7 05 2009
What does “Eco-Friendly” really mean for stage fabrics? | Sew What Inc. Blog

[…] what if it isn’t?  I just read a post on “O Ecotextiles” that talks about the many chemicals that 100% cotton may be treated with in the manufacturing […]

18 12 2012
natural ways to cure chronic kidney disease

I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This
type of clever work and reporting! Keep up the great works
guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my own blogroll.

18 12 2012
O Ecotextiles

Thanks so much!

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