the virtues of organic cotton

       

6oz V pearl LB w s (2)
canary 100% organic cotton camisole with organic cotton lace trim

Organic designation carries a lot of significance. It promises virtues that are tangible and desirable but generally invisible. Labelling claims range from legitimate to unregulated, creating a consumer landscape filled with a mix of reality, good intentions and greenwashing.

gotslogo          OEKO-TEX

Certifications like GOTS and Oeko-Tex apply to textiles. They are helpful for many reasons. Their guidelines are vast and continue to evolve. Consumers are responsible for knowing what they mean, including, for instance, that products can be certified which are not 100% organic, or even 100% natural fibres.

USDA_organic small        label_soil_association

To further complicate matters, some textiles also use food-oriented certification logos like USDA or OSA.

organic          organic-cotton-certified-

It’s also important to know that nothing prevents garment manufacturers from using generic logos like these, which can mean anything from “legitimately organic” to “buyer beware”.

organic_cotton_infographic - Copy

“The organic cotton difference”  post also shows some of the ways organic cotton differs from ‘conventional”. Because of various information campaigns, consumer interest, and adverse health effects, awareness of things like formaldehyde being routinely coated onto non-organic fabric is increasing.

HiddenToxins-Formaldehyde

It is rather incredible but hardly unbelievable to see labels like this:

wrinkle free organic

It’s not just the wrinkle-free fabrics that are saturated with toxins designed to never wash out. A 2015 Swedish study found that even organic cottons can contain problematic dyes and finishes, practices that pretty much negate the whole purpose of organic. This is not surprising, as many organic clothes are dyed, printed, and made in unregulated facilities that also produce non-organic goods.

In theory, “organic” is supposed to indicate less toxic processes from seed to fabric, and then, from fabric to finished garment.

Value-Chain-Analysis-of-the-Organic-Cotton-Industry-in-India

The two main advantages of organics are the same for both food and textiles: environmental impacts of production (including the health and well-being of workers), and health benefits for consumers who use the products. The Textile Exchange’s 2014 “Life Cycle Assessment of Organic Cotton Fibre” shows substantial differences in carbon footprint and water use in organic production.

LCA study

The health benefits of organic diet and farming were the focus of a 2017 Harvard School of Public Health report. Similar principles apply to textiles and clothing. While most textile research and initiatives focus on environmental concerns, like Greenpeace’s Toxic Threads campaign, others, like the Stockholm study, are about human health problems directly caused by toxins in clothes.

greenpeace_toxic_threads_cover

Given the large number of substances and variables involved, it’s practically impossible to quantify the total health effects of clothing. The most measurable are different kinds of contact allergy reactions to textiles, found mostly in occupational statistics and journal articles like this one from 2015.

586636-fig1

Anecdotally, textile dermatitis is on the rise, and often misdiagnosed or dismissed. My own dye allergy was incorrectly assessed at first, and eventually diagnosed as one of the worst ever seen by a dermatologist who also works at a prominent occupational health clinic. One upside of this debilitating condition was having the ability to make my own clothes, which I combined with a longtime interest in organic fibres and environmental impacts of textile production to make the Canary brand.

organic-cotton

With organic clothing not always being accessible or practical for everyone, focusing on inner layers next to the skin is the best way to get its health benefits. Canary’s undergarments have the added virtue of being dye-free, and being sewn (by me) in a chemical-free workshop with all-cotton thread. It is a non-pharmaceutical prescription for my allergies to create clothing with these beautiful and pure materials.

shop 4

canary branch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s