Offering further proof that the fashion industry is basically a just cartoon villain at this point, Vogue Business ran a story on the terrifying array of highly toxic chemicals found in most popular clothing.
Examples include fluorinated chemicals, which are “lauded for their efficacy at imparting stain, oil and water repellency into fabrics,” but are also directly linked to various types of cancer (among other illnesses), and formaldehyde, which is used for anti-wrinkle treatments, even though it’s, well, embalming fluid.
Then there are antimicrobial chemicals that are “popular with athletic brands because their compounds are used to fight [odor],” but, that also “increase the chance of microbial resistance… causing ‘superbug’-related health scares.” (Future headline: Lululemon Causes Actual Plague.)
Back to the cartoon villain part: brands “know certain chemicals are toxic, but most of them continue using the materials because of a lack of substitutes.” Per one consultant interviewed for the article, it would be hard to get rid of toxic chemicals writ large because they “serve a freaking amazing function.”
There are some companies that are taking strides to clean up their product lines. Levi’s stopped their anti-stain Dockers collection because they weren’t into fluorinated chemicals, Patagonia refuses to use formaldehyde to keep their shirts wrinkle-free, and VF Corporation has some cool tech to identify if / when toxic chemicals are used in the production of their clothing.
But, in order for more brands to follow suit, someone is going to have to fund the research necessary to create non-toxic alternatives. As one expert says, “most innovation dollars are used to make new materials, product redesigns, but not necessarily to implement safer chemistries.”
You can read more about it at Vogue Business.