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: http://www.chemicalbodyburden.org/whatisbb.htm
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: http://www.pesticideinfo.org/
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: http://www.ejfoundation.org/page241.html
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.