Toxic Fashion Campaign is a blog aimed at educating people about the potentially harmful chemicals used within the textile and clothing industry


Did Toxic Green Algae Kill 32 Wild Boars in France?

32 wild boars have been found dead in Morieux on the Brittany coast in northwest France, not far from the tourist destination of côtes d’Armôr. Green algae, which has already led to beach closures, is being pointed to as a likely culprit as dead boars wash up on France’s coastline. Speculation remains open about how the algae got there, with environmentalists pointing the finger at the nitrates in fertilizers used in intensive pig, sheep and dairy farming in Brittany, says the Guardian.

The algae drying up on the Brittany coast is ulva or sea lettuce and is not itself harmful, says the Los Angeles Times, but that changes after it washes up on land and dries. As it decomposes, the algae gives off a foul odor and toxic gas — most likely hydrogen sulfide, which the bodies of the dead boars is being tested for — is trapped beneath its crust. Breaking the algae’s crust releases a smell like rotting eggs.

Environmentalist Gilles Huet says that one theory in the boars’ death is that they may have drunk water containing the algae. Police officer Philippe De Gestas points out that the animals did not die by drowning.

Read more at:


Vivienne Westwood’s new Ethical Fashion Collection is a parntnership with the ITC (International Trade Centre), and is part of a Prorgramme supporting over 7,000 women who live in conditions of extreme poverty but who have a strong desire to improve their lives.  Through the programme’s extensive network, some of the poorest people in the world now have access to a job and income that subsequently benefits the entire community. The income earned also enables children to attend school and pays for medical expenses.

 All those involved in Vivienne Westwood’s Ethical Fashion Africa collection are empowered by the pride they take in their work and the new skills learnt.  The aim is that many will start their own companies and train the next generation of skilled workers, raising the standard of living in one of the world’s most fragile economies.

Handmade in Nairobi, the collection is produced from recycled materials by marginalized communities of women, with the support of the International Trade Center’s Ethical Fashion Programme of the United Nations.  The Flag Print Shopper is made of recycled/ offcuts of canvas and the lining is made of a patchwork of recycled clothing fabric.  The Africa Weekender Bag is made of recycled/ offcuts of canvas with a zipped fastening and buckle, to create more space when expanded. The bag comes lined in a patchwork of recycled clothing fabric, finished with webbing handles, an artisan golden metal orb and golden orb engraved studs.

The Applique Shopper is made of recycled/ offcuts of canvas with a zipped fastening, the lining of this bag is made of a patchwork of recycled clothing fabric. Finished with a plastic tassel and plastic handles with Orb engraved golden studs and patchwork orb made with offcuts of colourful plastic coated wire.
For more information visit:



The Dark Side of Softness

Soft towels, fluffy fleeces and synthetic fabrics don’t cling. What’s not to like? Well, try skin irritation, increased flammability and environmental pollution, for starters. Take a look at the dark side of fabric softener.

Fabric Softners Contain:
5% cationic surfactants, perfume, butylphenyl methylpropional, hexyl cinnamal, alpha-isomethyl ionone, benzisothiazolinone, sorbic acid, benzoic acis, benzyl alcohol

By all accounts we love our fabric softenersbecause in the UK we spend £200 million a year on them and Comfort, produced by multinational giant Unilever, claims a massive 50 percent share of the market.

The problem is that fabric softeners can be harmful to both the people who use them and the marine life that ends up swimming in them.

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Most fabric softeners are emulsions of water and cationic surfactants, which can cause skin irritation. As the law stands, consumers can never know which surfactant is used because manufacturers are not required to list this. The ingredient label on a bottle of Comfort is particularly galling for what it doesn’t say, since it begins with the words, ‘Comfort contains amongst other ingredients’, and then goes on to list the tiny handful of chemicals that must be listed. But what about the ones that don’t make it on the label?

Fabric softening surfactants can be derived from animals, plants or minerals, as in the case of newer, silicone-based formulations. There is little difference between the chemicals used in fabric softeners and those used in hair conditioners. Whatever they are based on, all fabric softeners work in pretty much the same way, by depositing these surfactants onto the fabric to make it feel softer, reduce static cling, and impart a fresh fragrance.

Liquid formulations added to washing machines during the rinse cycle are by far the most popular choice, though you can also buy fabric-softening sheets for use in the dryer. The latter releases a special resin that deposits a waxy coating on the clothes to make them feel softer.

Because the mechanics of fabric softening don’t vary from brand to brand, manufacturers have turned to perfume to distinguish their products from one another- indeed, many believe fragrance is a key factor in increasing sales. These products are often marketed as luxury items, in much the same way as health and beauty products, which customers are encouraged to purchase in a range of scents to suit all moods. Indeed, Comfort has just launched a new luxury range of fabric ‘conditioners’- Comfort Crème- which come in sleeker bottles and cost nearly three times as much as an ordinary bottle of Comfort.

Special fixatives in the mix of both standard and luxury conditioners mean that the fragrance can last for days, permeating wardrobes and drawers. The regular off-gassing of perfume chemicals from fabric softeners can be a significant trigger for asthma and other breathing problems. In the US, chemically sensitive individuals complain that, even after several washes, they cannot get the smell of fabric softeners out of their washing machines and dryers.

Studies have also shown that liquid fabric softeners can make fabrics more flammable. The surfactants used in the fabric softeners stick to the fibres, separating them from each other in a process not unlike the way the positive end of one magnet repels the negative end of another. Especially vulnerable to fire are fabrics that have a fuzzy surface such as terry cloth, fleece or flannel, particularly if they are made of cotton. This is because the total surface area is much greater than that of flat, woven fabrics. Combustion requires contact with oxygen, and the super fuzzy surfaces enhanced by fabric softeners provide a more oxygen-rich surface environment that further increases their flammability.

If you are a fabric softener addict there are now a number of companies that provide alternative and ‘green’ fabric softeners. But, essentially, these are unnecessary products that can trigger health problems and can interfere with the functional aspect of some textiles. For instance, when used on towels and nappies some fabric softeners can reduce absorbency, which is why it’s generally recommended that reusable nappies aren’t washed with them. Once they are washed down the drain they can become highly toxic to aquatic life. Given this, maybe it’s worth asking yourself whether the time has come to break the fabric softener habit completely.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist August 2006

Does Dry-Cleaning Make you Sick?

Ever wonder why the clothes you bring home from conventional dry cleaners have a strangely sweet odour? That’s the smell of petrochemical residue. Most people find it distasteful, but some people who suffer from asthma or odour sensitivities find it can make them sick.

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 Most dry cleaners (about 85%) use a synthetic chlorinated hydrocarbon solvent known as perchloroethylene (perc). It has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a toxic air contaminant, a hazardous, likely carcinogenic substance and one of the top four contaminants found in drinking water. It can enter your body when you inhale its vapours or touch it. Perc can irritate your skin, eyes, nose or throat, and affects your brain much like alcohol does (e.g. dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of balance or coordination, etc.). California has recently banned the use of perc; other states in America have proposed similar legislation.

GreenEarth is a green dry cleaning process that is so safe, the EPA doesn’t regulate it. Neither does OSHA, RCRA or CERCLA. In contrast, the petroleum-based solvents most dry cleaners use are heavily regulated. That’s because they can be extremely hazardous to the earth and people when they aren’t handled properly.

Clothes dry cleaned with GreenEarth have absolutely no odour. Your clothes are fresh and clean right out of the bag, so there’s no need to let them “air out” (though you should take them out of the bag before hanging them in your wardrobe—if humidity gets trapped inside the bag it is not good for clothes).

GreenEarth solution is so safe you could rub it on your skin. In fact, you probably already do. That’s because GreenEarth solution is pure liquid silicone, the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, conditioners, skin lotions and antiperspirants.

Allergies or sensitive skin? No worries. GreenEarth is non-allergenic and non-irritating. Best of all, it leaves fabrics silky smooth, with no static. Wools aren’t itchy. Jumpers feel soft. Fabrics drape nicely again. Clothes just feel good.

For more information visit:

 Beware of “green washing”!

The second most common type of solvent used in dry cleaning is hydrocarbon, also petroleum-based. Hydrocarbon is sometimes marketed as “organic”. Beware! There is nothing “green” about organic dry cleaning methods. Scientifically speaking, anything with a chain of carbon can be accurately labeled organic, but that doesn’t mean it’s environmentally friendly or chemical-free. Gasoline is organic, but you wouldn’t want to wash clothes with it.

Reasons to Make Chemicals Kid-Safe

I’ve just found an interesting article written by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research organization based in Washington, D.C. that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.
The EWG have produced a study that found 252 chemicals linked to cancer in 160 people tested (EWG 2008). Environmental Protection Agency studies show that infants up to age 2 are, on average, 10 times more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults (EWG 2003).

Babies are Born Pre-Polluted

In 2005, Greenpeace and WWF undertook testing of maternal and umbilical cord blood and the results showed the ability of a number of commonly used chemicals to cross the placenta barrier. Exposure to chemical body burden can take place through our mothers, as during pregnancy, the chemicals stored in a woman’s body have the ability to cross the placenta where they may cause harm. Some chemicals from a mother’s body are also mobilized and transferred to the breasts as she produces breast milk.  These chemicals are then transferred to the baby during breastfeeding.
Developing or immature tissues are far more susceptible to chemical exposures than adult tissues. Development is a time of special vulnerability. It is a time of very rapid replication and differentiation of cells – the latter being an incredibly complex and vulnerable process.Studies have shown that breast milk remains the best food for babies because of its immunological, nutritional and psychological benefits, however the fact that industrial chemicals have contaminated breast milk is tragic.

Why Wash Your Jeans?

I’ve read about many of the chemicals in laundry detergents and fabric softeners and am concerned about their health implications, as many contain formaldehyde, artificial fragrances and other toxins that can cause illnesses from central nervous system disorders to dermatitis.  It’s also widely accepted that between 50%, to 70% of life cycle carbon emissions of cleaning products occur during the use phase, for example when using a washing machine, and the major contributors to carbon emissions are often related to energy consumption. 

Then I saw an article about a student at the University of Alberta who wore the same pair of skin-tight jeans for 15 months without washing them (that’s over 200 wears) before having his jeans tested by his textile professor to see what bacteria could be discovered, I began to wonder do we really need to wash our clothes so often?  The experiment ended up serving a rather interesting, purpose, as surprisingly, the jeans were remarkably clean.

Josh Le of the University of Alberta was not trying to reduce his carbon footprint; his excuse for not doing his laundry was that he wanted to break in the raw denim so the fabric would hug the contours of his body, leaving distinct wear lines and creases. 
 At the conclusion of the experiment Le washed his jeans in a washing machine, after which he wore the jeans another two weeks and then re-tested them. The results surprised Le and Human Ecology professor Rachel McQueen who said what was most surprising was that the jeans after they were re-washed and re-tested were very similar.  McQueen said the highest recordings of bacteria were found in the crotch of the jeans where between 8,500 and 10,000 bacterial units per square centimetre were found, with lower readings in the back and front of the jeans.  In all, there were five kinds of skin bacteria in the jeans, and there were no traces of dangerous E. coli. McQueen said of the bacteria count of the freshly washed pair, compared to the prewashing levels. “I expected they would still be much lower than after 15 months.”
Controlling odour was a different concern, Le said, admitting the jeans began to smell after a few months. Josh decided to put his smelly jeans in the freezer for a few hours after which they became odourless. “I triple-bagged them and put them in the freezer,” he said. So, maybe we don’t need to wash our clothes so often after all!!!!  Read more by clicking on the link below:
Photo: John Ulan/Canadian Press

What’s Your poison?

Technological advancements in today’s textiles has enabled us to create genetically engineered filaments and biometric textiles that emulate nature, just like the synthetic textiles created to emulate natural fibres during the chemical and industrial revolution, however it is clear that despite new research into the development of well-being textiles, the widespread use of man-made chemicals in the textile and clothing industry has contributed to global contamination of the environment, wildlife and humankind.  The Chemicals Revolution has impacted greatly on human well-being and although it cannot be argued that chemicals have raised farming yields by killing crop pests to what detriment has this occurred? 
Take cotton, for example: Cotton is the world’s most important non-food agricultural commodity.  It has been used to make textiles for over 5000 years and is grown on 76 million acres of land world-wide.  Although cotton is made from a natural fibre, from a plant, the pressure for conventionally processed cotton that can be produced cheaply and quickly has resulted in a final product that is far from natural.
Conventional cotton growing requires the use of acutely toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.  The use of pesticides has caused a range of well-documented environmental impacts including reduced soil fertility and loss of biodiversity and is known to be responsible for polluting rivers and soils, and can have devastating effects on the people working in the cotton fields. 
Pesticides are toxic by design, they are manufactured with the sole aim of killing, repelling or inhibiting the growth of specific organisms. One pesticide, endosulfan is widely used in cotton production and is the dominant pesticide in the cotton sector in 19 countries.  Endosulfan belongs to the chemical family of Organochlorine Pesticides (OCs).  Organochlorine pesticides are insecticides composed primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine. They break down slowly and can remain in the environment long after application and in organisms long after exposure.
The most notorious organochlorine is the insecticide DDT (Dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane), which was promoted as a “cure all” insecticide in the 1940s, when it was widely used in agricultural production around the world for many years. It was also the primary weapon in the global “war against malaria” during this period, and continues to be used for malaria control in a handful of countries.
In 1944 however, researchers found that residues of DDT were present in human fat. On entering the body it is stored largely in organs rich in fatty substances (because DDT itself is fat-soluble).  In the 1950’s DDT was also detected in Antarctic penguins living far from where DDT was being used, and as a result it has been found to threaten long-term health and create ecological consequences that were never anticipated or intended.  For more information on human exposure to pesticides visit:
Medical research has shown that some pesticides have the potential to affect nervous, hormonal or immune systems. According to Pan UK, there are many studies showing that chronic exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of a wide range of serious health problems, including certain cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and brain cancer, neurological problems such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, some birth defects, spontaneous abortions and reproductive problems such as reduced sperm count and sterility, decreased intelligence, behavioural abnormalities and a weakened immune system.   
Detailed information on these specific pesticides is available at:
Like EJF, who are campaigning to ban the use of endosulfan, I also aim to campaign to make politicians take action to stop companies using hazardous chemicals and substitute them with safer alternatives whenever and wherever possible.   I will be doing this through an awareness campaign and will be asking a group of 16-17 year old students to design campaign T-Shirts for me to raise awareness of the use of pesticides in fibre cultivation.  The T-Shirts will be available on my website soon.  Watch this space for details……..
In the meantime, if you are interested and want to know more, watch EJF’s film on the deadly chemicals in cotton by clicking on the link:
EJF is campaigning to:
  • Raise awareness of the harmful impacts on the environment and human health of chemicals like endosulfan
  • Press national governments to introduce measures to ban the import, sale and use of dangerous pesticides
  • Secure global bans on the one of the world’s most hazardous pesticides (endosulfan), and empower developing countries to implement and enforce their national measures through international cooperation.