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Choose Organic Cotton For Cleaner, Eco-friendly Clothing

Choose Organic Cotton For Cleaner, Eco-friendly Clothing

April 9, 2013

Cotton is ultimate symbol of everything a fabric should be: pure, natural, soft. But it turns out that conventional cotton, which is what most kids’ clothing is made of, is considered the world’s dirtiest crop.

Cotton farming occurs on just 2.5 percent of the globe’s cultivated land but uses 16 percent of the world’s total insecticides and almost 7 percent of all herbicides. These chemicals are some of the most toxic ever created—nine out of the top 10 cotton pesticides are classified as moderately to acutely toxic. Three are ranked by the World Health Organization among the most dangerous to human health. The EPA considers seven of the top 15 possible carcinogens.

This is an environmental concern; these poisons contaminate the air, water, and soil when used. But it is also a health concern. Research published in the Journal of Textile and Apparel Technology and Management shows that when conventional cotton leaves the field, traces of many of the pesticides used to grow it remain in the fibers themselves—something to consider when dressing a thin-skinned baby or watching your kid chew on a terry cloth towel post-bath.

Cotton also requires large amounts of synthetic fertilizers, and it takes about 1/3 of a pound of these pollutants to produce a single t-shirt.

Once conventional cotton is harvested, it’s processed with a wide variety of toxic finishing materials including heavy metals, formaldehyde, azo dyes, benzidine, chlorine, silicone waxes, petroleum scours, flame and soil retardants, and ammonia. If you have ever watched a baby suck on her collar or her sock, this will make you want to adopt a precautionary stance when it comes to these fabrics.

Enter organic cotton.

Organic cotton is grown and manufactured without these hazards. When we choose organic cotton instead of conventional cotton, we protect the health of our families and the environment.

Once a rarity, organic cotton is being grown in greater quantities every year. It’s now possible to find equally attractive and durable organic versions of almost every traditional cotton product—from bed sheets to swaddles to cloth diapers to blue jeans. Look for these organic alternatives when you shop. If your local stores don’t carry organic options, check online. You may also be able to find clothing made from eco-friendlier sustainably grown cotton which will contain less residues than conventional cotton but not as little as organic.