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The Science Behind Fast-Fashion

There are several reasons why we keep echoing the fact that fast fashion is no good, and the rampant use of hazardous chemicals happens to be one of them. Every time you wear clothes treated with carcinogens or hormone disruptors, they leach into your skin and get deposited into your bloodstream. Ahead, we list 5 of the most common toxic chemicals used in fast fashion iand why you need to watch out for them.

Key Takeaways: 1. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial disinfectant, preservative in funeral homes (read: dead bodies), and by fast fashion clothing brands. Typically used to give clothes anti-wrinkling or stain-resistant properties, formaldehyde is actually a carcinogen that has been known to cause skin irritation, headaches, or a sore throat in mild cases and dermatitis or even lung cancer in severe cases. Brands like Victoria's Secret had already come under fire for using excessive levels of formaldehyde in their lingerie. They faced a lawsuit when customers reported breaking out in rashes after wearing their bras. Unfortunately, the United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, nor does any government agency require manufacturers to disclose the chemical's use on labels.

2. Phthalates

Phthalates are commonly applied to soften plastic and are used in similar capacities to temper leather, rubber, and PVC in footwear, bags and accessories. The chemical has also been frequently found in plastisol printed garments. Repeated use of clothes or supplements that contain this chemical has been linked to endocrine disruption and DNA damage. In 2012, the environmental watchdog Greenpeace sampled over 140 clothing items and detected phthalates in 31 garments. Very high concentrations were found in four of the samples — where the chemical comprised 37.6% of the clothing weight. Additionally, phthalates have also been found in workout gear, jeans, and raincoats.

3. AZO dyes

AZO is a group of rampantly used dyes due to their low price and ability to produce vivid colours. Around 60 to 80% of all fabric colorants are AZO dyes and can release cancer-causing chemicals called amines. Despite being banned in the European region due to their toxic nature, these dyes are still commonly used in fast fashion industry made in other parts of the world. Since these dyes are water-soluble, they can easily get absorbed into your skin and, as a result, may cause symptoms like skin and eye irritation.

4. Chromium

Chromium is a heavy metal utilised in the leather tanning process that gives it a soft and pliable texture. Wearing leather that's been tanned using chromium for extended periods can cause a weakened immune system, kidney or liver damage. In 2018, the European Union recognised this danger to consumers and now recalls a fashion product every few weeks for excessive chromium, nickel, or other toxic substances. However, leather produced in the United States and around the world is still chromium-tanned.

5. APEOs and NPEOs

APEOs, also known as alkylphenols, are a class of chemicals commonly used as surfactants in washing denim. NPEOs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) are a common subset of APEOs used as detergents and emulsifiers in the leather and textile industry. Studies have shown that both chemicals are considered endocrine disruptors due to their ability to mimic estrogen and cause immense damage to the hormone-regulating system.

As a sustainable fashion brand, ZAVI understands its responsibility for checking our supply chains to ensure that we don't use any harmful chemicals or dyes in our clothes. To assure you of your well-being, we ensure our textile manufacturing processes, raw materials and trims are laboratory tested for heavy metals and NPEOs.

Furthermore, the dyes we use are free from AZO chemicals and carcinogens like formaldehyde. We also make sure that the trims on our garments meet the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 mark; through this certification, you can be assured that every component has been tested for harmful substances and can be deemed harmless for human health. This includes checks against every element, right from the threads, zippers to buttons.

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-04-17

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