There Could Be Tiny Bits of Plastic in Your Sea Salt

Some environmentalists warn the plastic pollution threat now “rivals climate change.”

Author: Jessica Glenza, The Guardian | Published: September 12, 2017

Sea salt around the world has been contaminated by plastic pollution, adding to experts’ fears that microplastics are becoming ubiquitous in the environment and finding their way into the food chain via the salt in our diets.

Following recent revelations in the Guardian about levels of plastic contamination in tap water, new studies have shown that tiny particles have been found in sea salt in the UK, France and Spain, as well as China and now the U.S.

Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibers and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste. Up to 12.7m metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute into the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations.

“Not only are plastics pervasive in our society in terms of daily use, but they are pervasive in the environment,” said Sherri Mason, a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who led the latest research into plastic contamination in salt. Plastics are “ubiquitous, in the air, water, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt we use—plastics are just everywhere”.

Mason collaborated with researchers at the University of Minnesota to examine microplastics in salt, beer and drinking water. Her research looked at 12 different kinds of salt (including 10 sea salts) bought from US grocery stores around the world. The Guardian received an exclusive look at the forthcoming study.

Mason found Americans could be ingesting upwards of 660 particles of plastic each year, if they follow health officials’ advice to eat 2.3 grammes of salt per day. However, most Americans could be ingesting far more, as health officials believe 90 percent of Americans eat too much salt.

The health impact of ingesting plastic is not known. Scientists have struggled to research the impact of plastic on the human body, because they cannot find a control group of humans who have not been exposed.


A Soil-to-Soil Vision for the Fashion Revolution

Author: Fair World Project | Published: September 2017

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Fashion Revolution Week. The Only Fashion Week Worth Caring About

Fashion Revolution Week 2017 was our biggest and loudest to date

Author: Carry Somers | Published: August 11, 2017

Our movement continues to grow, with more people than ever calling for a fairer, safer, more transparent fashion industry.

From Australia to Brazil, Uruguay to Vietnam, we saw 2 million people engage with Fashion Revolution in April through events, posting on social media, viewing our videos or downloading resources from our website. 66,000 people attended around 1000 Fashion Revolution events, from catwalks and clothes swaps, to film screenings, panel discussions, creative stunts and workshops. A further 740 events took place in schools and universities, assisted by our network of 120 student ambassadors around the world.

More people want to know #whomademyclothes

As in previous years, our social media impact was immense, with 533 million impressions of posts using one of our hashtags during April – an increase of almost 250% on last year.

Over the week we have been joined by hundreds of celebrities and influencers including internationally-recognised names such as actress Emma Watson, pro-surfer Kelly Slater, artist Shepard Fairey, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Italia Antonella Antonelli, Brazilian actress Fernanda Paes Leme, Nobel Prize Winner Professor Yunus and cooks Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, and Bangladeshi ex child worker Kalpona Akter.


The 12 Forward Thinkers Changing Style and Sustainability

Author: Lindsay Talbot | Published: July 19, 2017

Washington may be bailing on the planet, but the fashion industry isn’t.

hese people, from all different industries, all have one thing in common: They’re at the forefront of style and sustainability, and want to be part of the solution. They’re retrofitting factories and building stores that rely on clean energy and emit less of the carbon contributing to global warming. They’re transforming discarded plastics choking our oceans and waterways into jeans and sneakers. They’re developing innovations that reduce waste, recycling materials, and leading by the example of their personal choices. Trends in fashion may come and go, but taking care and being mindful of the environment is one trend that defies all seasons.

Here, the trailblazers we highlight in our first-ever sustainability issue, on newsstands now.

The Original: Yvon Chouinard

Because he sided with the planet long before it was trendy to do so.

PROFESSION: Founder, Patagonia.

ECO CRED: Founded in 1973, Patagonia has racked up major firsts in its steady march toward sustainability. First to switch all of its cotton clothing to organic in 1996 (and heavily invest in regenerative agriculture, working with farmers and scientists to develop technologies that rebuild topsoil and capture carbon in the earth for over 20 years). First clothing line to make fleece using recycled bottles. First to pledge 1 percent of annual sales (as an “Earth tax”) to grassroots organizations, for upwards of $82 million in grants and in-kind donations to date.

OFFICE SPACE: Under Chouinard’s stewardship, the company scrupulously measured the eco-impacts of articles of its clothing in The Footprint Chronicles on its website; converted its Ventura, California, headquarters to new solar-powered smart-grid energy systems; started the Worn Wear initiative, which repairs clothes so they can be used longer; and launched a Drive-Less program that rewards employees who carpool, take public transit, or bike, skateboard, etc., to work with a yearly stipend. Last year, staffers drove 798,900 fewer single-driver miles, cutting CO2 emissions by 589,900 pounds and saving 30,400 gallons of fuel.


Fashion Waste Poised to Become Environmental Crisis

Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola | Published: August 16, 2017

Over the past decades society has moved from using biodegradable, recyclable natural products to highly resilient and nonbiodegradable plastics made with toxic chemicals. Plastics invade nearly every area of your life — even parts you don’t see, such as your clothing and microbeads in your makeup and facial products.

Each of these contribute to a rapidly growing problem in the environment, especially our oceans, where plastic micropollution is quickly overtaking the fish population. Discarded plastics are polluting your food supply and ultimately finding their way into your body where they accumulate over time. The risk grows with every discarded bottle, bag, shower curtain and load of wash.

Microfibers that enter the water supply from your washing machine are not the only ways fabric is fast becoming an environmental crisis. The fashion industry has nurtured people’s desire for new clothes to the point that trends shift weekly. These rapidly changing trends naturally result in more clothing being discarded, ultimately clogging up our landfills.

Clothing Purchases on the Rise

The Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP) in the U.K. estimates the average piece of clothing lasts approximately 3.3 years, but this estimate may be too high.1 According to one British fashion company, many customers only keep new clothing for about five weeks before it ends up being donated or thrown out.

Today, the average woman in the U.S. owns 30 different outfits, as compared to the nine she owned in 1930,2 and we throw away approximately 65 pounds of clothing per person each year. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry and watches than on higher education, and 93 percent of girls say shopping is their favorite activity.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the amount of clothing recycled is equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road each year.3 But, 13 million tons of textiles still make it to U.S. landfills every year. The American apparel industry grosses $12 billion.4 Estimates are the average family in the U.S. spends $1,700 per person each year on clothing. The dollar amount is not significant as it represents a small percentage of annual spending, but the cost to the environment is steep.

Fashion Industry Waste Laden With Toxic Chemicals

While it may seem the number of textiles discarded are not important, as most fabric should be biodegradable, the reality is the large amount of clothing thrown away contains more than cotton. The textile industry has taken full advantage of chemicals available to protect the garment or make changes to the product without consideration for how these chemicals affect the environment.

Procedures to treat clothing include using specialized chemicals, such as biocides, flame retardants and water repellents.5 Over 60 different chemical classes are used in the production of yarn, fabric pretreatments and finishing.

When fabrics are manufactured, between 10 and 100 percent of the weight of the fabric is added in chemicals.6 Even fabrics made from 100 percent cotton are coated with 27 percent of its weight in chemicals. Most fabrics are treated with liquid chemicals to ready them for the fashion industry, going through several treatments before being shipped to a manufacturer.

Many chemicals have known health and environmental issues. Greenpeace7 commissioned an investigation into the toxic chemicals used in clothing. They purchased 141 different pieces of clothing in 29 different countries. The chemicals found included high levels of phthalates and cancer-causing amines. The investigators also found 89 garments with nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Levels above 100 ppm were found in 20 percent of the garments and above 1,000 ppm were recorded in 12 of the samples.

Any level of phthalates, amines or NPEs found in clothing that remains against your body is unacceptable as they are hazardous materials. However, the dangers from these chemicals don’t end when you finish wearing the garment. As the material makes it to a landfill, these chemicals leach out from the fabric and make it to the groundwater.

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been widely used in textile marketing and have been linked in epidemiological studies with several different types of cancers in humans.

These chemicals are so ubiquitous they’ve been found in the blood of polar bears and found in tap water supplies used by 15 million Americans in 27 states.8 Cheap, mass-produced clothing has given many individuals the chance to purchase the current style without breaking the bank. But an initial reduction in price on clothing may be at the expense of both people and the environment.


OCA and the True Potential of Organic Cotton

Published: August 8, 2017 

A prosperous organic cotton sector benefits everyone—from farmer to consumer. To realize the sector’s potential, we need to bring about the conditions that will allow the crop that safeguards the environment and enhances farmer livelihoods to flourish. 

The issue as to whether growing organic cotton produces lower yields is a hot topic. Clarity on this issue is important for understanding how far the lower social and environmental costs of organic cotton production are realized in practice.

To understand this issue, it is helpful to distinguish between organic cotton farming’s potential and what still needs to be done to fully realize that potential. Worldwide, organic cotton yield figures are highly variable. Organic cotton fiber yields reach up to 1,687 kg per hectare in Turkey, but just 508 kg per hectare in India, the world’s largest producer of organic cotton. Reaching the higher end of this yield spectrum is possible if the right enabling conditions are in place.

This is where the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) comes in.  OCA partners have joined forces to solve the sector’s problems and ensure the yields and benefits of organic cotton reach their full potential. OCA partners are piloting interventions designed to improve the organic cotton farmer business case, increase transparency in the supply chain, and secure availability and access to quality, high-yielding organic seed varieties. OCA plans to scale these interventions to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of organic cotton are fully maximized.


Towards a Climate-beneficial Wardrobe

Published: August 1, 2017 

Is Our Clothing Toxic? It’s More Complicated Than We Think

Author: Jill Richardson | Published: July 13, 2017

Google “toxic fabrics” and a host of sites will come up, some from as far back as 1993. Generally they list a number of synthetic fabrics (acrylic, nylon, polyester) along with rayon (which is made from chemically processed wood pulp) and make the case that all are bad because they are made from scary chemicals. Obviously, natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, wool, and linen are the way to go. Those are made from plants and sheep, not coal and petroleum derivatives.

The truth is more complicated than this. Your clothing is never made solely out of just cotton or polyester. Every single fabric has some form of processing. It may be preshunk cotton, or superwash merino. It may be bleached. It’s almost always dyed. And nowadays clothing comes in all kinds of high-tech variations: UV protective, bug repellant, wrinkle-free, stain resistant, antimicrobial, and so on. Even pure cotton can be grown with pesticides.

These chemicals pose a myriad of concerns for the environment, both in the place of manufacture and due to chemicals released through washing. But what about the safety to the wearer?

The Basics: What Are Fabrics Made From?

If you look in your closet, you’ll likely find a number of different natural and synthetic fibers. Over 60 percent of global fiber consumption is comprised of petroleum based synthetic fibers, although some may be used for textiles other than clothing (like rugs or rope). Comparatively, cotton makes up nearly a quarter of textile consumption, with wool making up about 1 percent, and other natural fibers (hemp, linen, etc) accounting for 5 percent. The remaining 6.6 percent are wood-based cellulose fibers (e.g. rayon).

Natural fibers come from either plants or animals. Plants used for clothing include cotton, hemp and flax. Animal fibers are more diverse, even if some, such as yak, remain uncommon. However, sheep are not the only animals who can provide high-quality fiber: alpacas, goats (cashmere and mohair), rabbits (angora), yaks, camels, llamas, and even the wild alpaca relative, the vicuña, provide fiber used for clothing. Silk is also a natural fiber, made from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm. Other animal products used in clothing are hides (leather), feathers (down) and fur.

While humans have used natural fibers for millennia, rayon, which is made from wood fibers with synthetic processing, was invented in 1894, and the first fully synthetic fiber, nylon, was invented in the 1930s. Other wood-based fibers produced with synthetic processing include modal and bamboo. Fully synthetic fibers, generally made from petroleum or coal products, are acrylic, polyester and spandex.

Toxicology research into clothing focuses less on the fibers themselves and more on the chemicals used in processing the fibers. Even a simple cotton T-shirt requires numerous chemicals to bring it to market. The question for consumers is not only how safe are the chemicals used, but what are you willing to sacrifice and how much are you willing to spend in order to get the chemicals out of your closet?

Chemicals WorthDyeingFor

Your clothes do not contain only cotton or rayon or polyester. They are also bleached and dyed. Dyeing also requires the use of a “mordant,” a chemical that helps the dye adhere to the clothing. While natural dyes can be used along with a mordant like alum or cream of tartar, unless your clothing says otherwise, you can be almost certain natural dyes were not used.

Three different dye chemicals (or groups of chemicals) are of most concern. Azo dyes can release chemicals called aromatic amines when you wear them, and they can be absorbed into your body. There are hundreds of different azo dyes, and a large number of them can release aromatic amines. Some of these aromatic amines are known to be toxic (or as scientists put it, they are of “toxicological concern”), and others have never been assessed for toxicity. The main concerns are that these chemicals can cause cancer, and they also may be allergens. A 2014 study found that 17 percent of clothing samples contained aromatic amines “of high toxicological concern,” including several that had them in higher levels than legally allowed in the European Union.

Second, quinoline is a chemical used in dying textiles that causes concern. According to another 2014 study, even though no human studies on their carcinogenicity are available, tests involving acute exposure of mice have demonstrated “quinoline and some of its methylated isomers to induce liver cancer.” That study found that quinoline was found in polyester clothing more than it was found in clothing made from other fibers. One study labeled quinoline a potential human carcinogen, and reiterated the correlation of quinoline with polyester.


Here’s Why Thousands of People Are Calling on Zara and H&M to Drop Some of Their Suppliers

Author: Sara Spary | Published: July 5, 2017 

More than 128,000 people have signed a petition calling on H&M and Zara “and other fashion giants” to stop sourcing from producers linked to pollution, after a report claimed factories linked to the brands were damaging local waterways and emitting “noxious gases”.

The Changing Markets Foundation launched the petition last week after publishing a report that claimed to have found evidence of pollution surrounding major viscose fabric manufacturing sites in China, Indonesia, and India.

H&M was found to be buying from eight polluting factories and Zara was buying from four, the report said, though the foundation acknowledged that both businesses had been “among the most transparent” in dealing with the inquiries with regards to their suppliers.

Viscose is a manmade clothing material similar to silk in appearance, but cheaper. It is bought by major fashion brands and is made from wood pulp that is treated with chemicals. The report, published earlier this month, claimed that pollutants from viscose production had seeped into local waterways and air, killing aquatic life and making water undrinkable in some instances.

While the petition specifically targets H&M and Zara, the report also named Tesco, Asos, and M&S among businesses thought to be supplied by factories in those regions.

“Cheap production, which is driven by the fast fashion industry, combined with lax enforcement of environmental regulations in China, India, and Indonesia, is proving to be a toxic mix,” the report claimed.

The petition, so far signed by 129,134 people, states: “The clothes you sell have been directly linked to devastating air and water pollution at viscose factories in Asia. As customers across Europe, we demand that you immediately commit to a zero pollution policy and timeline, work with producers to transition to clean technologies, and stop purchasing from producers who fail to comply.”


‘I Get Sick Every Time I Go to Work’: American Airlines Flight Attendant Claims Her ‘sexy’ New Uniform Is Making Her Ill

Author: Regina F. Graham | Published: July 5, 2017 

An American Airlines flight attendant claims that her ‘sexy’ uniform is causing her to have serious health problems.

Heather Poole, a 20-year crew member for the popular airliner, has been blogging in recent months about the adverse effects she claims she has experienced while sporting the company-issued suiting.

‘I get sick every time I go to work,’ she wrote. ‘Every time I go to work I feel terrible.

‘Since the uniform debuted on September 20, I’ve seen more doctors than I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve learned things about toxic chemicals I never knew before.

‘Before the new uniform I didn’t know what ‘sensitizers’ were or what ‘synergy’ meant, and I sure as heck would have never dreamed I’d develop ‘MCS’ (multiple chemical sensitivity). Now I’m practically an expert on the subject.’

Poole suffers from hypothyroidism and says the uniform has also negatively affected her condition.

However, flight attendants began complaining about rashes with those uniforms too.

In addition to flight attendants having issues with the clothing, American Airlines pilots have also complained about health issues they believe are being caused by the chemicals in the uniforms.

More than 3,000 members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants have also filed complaints about the new uniforms.

About 100 pilots said the new uniforms were giving them rashes, swollen eyes, and making them feel generally ill, reported Bloomberg News.

‘They have to be fit for duty,’ Dennis Tajer, an Allied Pilots Association spokesman, said. ‘If the uniform is making them not fit for duty, then something has to change.’

Tajer said a couple of pilots became so sick they couldn’t fly, and others only had symptoms when the uniforms were on.