Fast colours and Fast Fashion
Spring is finally here, and for many of us, this means packing away our drab, dark, winter clothing and bringing out our brightly coloured summer clothes. As the seasons change, so do colour trends. Last season, Pantone released its Fashion Color Report for Spring 2016 (a part of its semi-annual colour report curated by a team of colour experts). The ten colours that they anticipate will be present in the collections of many designers, are a mix of new and old hues; for big brands, this will mean a variety of new shades coming to the market. Unfortunately, due to the wider colour range of synthetic dyes (as opposed to natural dyes), this means a significant increase in the use of toxic chemicals in the production of dyes.
With new shades like “snorkel blue” and “peach echo” that doesn’t normally exist in nature, dye and textile manufacturers will produce these artificial colours using chemicals including:
- Also known as APEOs, Alkyphenols or Alkylphenyls
- In the textile industry, they are used in detergents and as scouring, coating or waterproofing agents in the final stages of the dyeing process.
- In a 2012 study by Greenpeace Research Labs, Alkylphenol was found in many popular brands, and it was revealed that this chemical substance has been linked to reproductive health issues.
- APEOs are slow to biodegrade and they tend to bioaccumulate; become concentrated in the body of living things. They also biomagnify; they move up the food chain and ultimately to us.
- Though APEOs themselves are not carcinogenic, when they degrade, their byproducts have a higher toxicity and estrogenic activity.
- They have also been shown to reduced sperm count in men, and can result in early termination of pregnancy or fetal growth defects.
- This is the basis for a popular group of dyes known as Azo dyes, which are considered deadly poisons and are dangerous to work with because they are highly flammable.
- Azo dyes can break down to form a class of chemical substances referred to as aromatic amines, which are considered to be hazardous, and have been classified as human carcinogens.
- They are the most widely used, constituting 60-70% of all organic dyes produced in the world and most are red in color.
- Known as one of the strongest poisons which man is able to produce; it is mainly found as a result of the pesticides used in the growth of cotton.
- Can cause cancer of the liver and lung, and interferes with the immune system, resulting in a predisposition to infectious diseases and embryonal misgrowth.
- An aldehyde which is a human carcinogen and is used to keep clothes looking fresh and new while in transit, and to make them more stain resistant.
- Also been shown to cause damage to the nervous system by its known ability to react with and form cross-linking with proteins, DNA and unsaturated fatty acids.
Toxic Heavy Metals
- Heavy metals are defined by their negative effects on people’s health, for example, chrome, copper, and zinc are known carcinogens, yet are widely used in the production of synthetic dyes.
These chemicals are found in the synthetic dyes that are used for all the spring fashions, so before buying all the new spring fashions, stop to think about the effect the materials you are buying will have on your health. Although these colors all look beautiful it is important to think about what happens behind the clothing rack. These dyes have affects on our bodies, our health and the environment, both the consumer and the production workers.
Alternatives exist, however there are pro’s and con’s to every option. Some alternatives are fibre reactive, low impact dyes, organic dyes and mordants. These options require less water as the dyes are more potent and require less rinsing. These options are less toxic as they contain less metals however tend to be more expensive and petrochemicals are still present, albeit in lesser amounts. Awareness is needed for any further alternatives to exist. It is possible for our clothes to be healthy, we are moving towards this process.