Rooting the Fashion Revolution in the Soil

Author: Jess Daniels | Published: May 3, 2017  

This year’s Fashion Revolution Week just wrapped up but the movement for transparency, accountability, and shifting the norms of a harmful and wasteful industry is gaining more traction and momentum than ever.

Born out of tragedy, the Fashion Revolution campaign began with just one day and one question to honor the nearly 1200 lives lost and innumerable others forever changed when the Rana Plaza Factory collapsed due to structural damages ignored by management, causing the greatest garment worker disaster in history. Because fashion is a consumer-based industry, the burden falls not only in the hands of the corporations contracting with clothing manufacturers but on all of us who make choices each time we shop, choices to unwaveringly support a supply chain, or to question its impacts and motivations, or to pursue a more just and ecologically sound path.

Since 2013 it seems a call to action has reverberated through the fashion industry and through so many of us who have awoken to the recognition of our role as wearers of clothing.

Photo: Modeling regenerative fashion with the Grow Your Jeans project, by Paige Green Photography.

Here in the Fibershed community, we have seen our Northern California community flourish with  a fashion show that re-envisions denim as a place-based and fossil-fuel-free garment; we have supported the shift of the world’s largest textile corporation in creating their first ‘re-shored’ supply chain right here in their own backyard; we have nurtured the swell of the soil to soil movement in over 50 Fibershed Affiliate communities worldwide; and we have created an economic model for funding on-farm climate solutions through community-powered textile programs.

It’s hard to become aware of the issues, or even one aspect of the impacts, of modern fashion and not be discouraged. For an industry that relies on agriculture, manufacturing, shipping & transport, washing, waste and recycling systems – sectors that all told account for 59% of global greenhouse gas emissions¹ – we can’t even definitively say exactly how bad fashion is for the climate.

We need more research and life cycle assessments and internalization of the carbon cost of clothing, but here is an early indicator of how deep & far-reaching this industry goes: recent studies show that synthetic microfiber pollution is 131 times worse than initially reported (just 6 years ago)² – this microscopic pollution amounts to two hundred million microfibers per person on earth, and more by the second. Yes, as I’m typing this or you’re reading this, our poly-cotton t-shirts or spandex-blend yoga pants or feel-good recycled fleeces are shedding into our washing machines and heading out into waterways. A tip of the proverbial iceberg (which, unfortunately, also contains plastic fibers).

Yet consider that this research, despite its relatively short-lived publication, has spawned the start of creative solutions. From microfiber-trapping laundry balls to differences in material development to industrial filters, we’re seeing pragmatic and iterative options along the supply chain.

Photo: regional supply chain partner and Fibershed member Huston Textile Co., by Paige Green Photography

Climate scientists say that one of the most difficult challenges in addressing climate change is that humans have a hard time understanding things we haven’t experienced³. Our species has a hard time tackling the unimaginable, and perhaps that’s why it took a heartbreaking disaster to bring forth the Fashion Revolution. Maybe that’s why studies and video campaigns about microfibers – a pollution problem so big yet so microscopic it’s invisible – are leading the way for solutions engineering.

So if we don’t know precisely how to encompass and measure fashion’s climate footprint, let’s focus on a few key pieces we do know. We know that natural fibers not only eliminate the microfiber-shedding pollution created by synthetics (which will never biodegrade), and that natural fibers begin with the soil instead of with fossil fuels extracted from the earth. Right now we have tipped the scales so that the majority of the world’s fibers are made from plastic, which is made from fossilized carbon stocks, the release of which directly contributes to climate change.

Photo: rebuilding soil with compost application, by Paige Green Photography

We know that topsoil is degraded on working lands around the world*, but that there are strategies and practices that use natural systems instead of chemical inputs to build soil health. And we know that these practices, with proper planning and management, can even increase soil carbon, meaning that they help mitigate climate change.

For instance: the carbon farm plan from one of our members has calculated that soil-building practices will offset greenhouse emissions equivalent to taking 180 cars off the road each year in perpetuity.

And we know that such working lands, in our Fibershed and around the world, can produce incredible natural fibers, from naturally colored cotton to next-to-skin soft wool, sturdy bast fibers like hemp and flax linen, luxurious alpaca and other fine fibers, and coarse wool that makes cozy bedding and durable goods. With fibers in hand, there are still mills across the US that can serve as supply chain partners and avoid transcontinental shipping, and  by blending different natural fibers we can create textiles with amazing material properties that keep us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, allow our skin to breath, and that last a long time in our wardrobe or home.

Photo: in the indigo research plot, harvsting regional natural dyes, by Paige Green Photography

While we know that most synthetic dyes cause harm to our waterways and endocrine system**, we see a growing community of natural dyeing teachers, practitioners, and innovators who are growing, foraging, and making color that honors place (our indigo project, Artisan Producer directory, and community events calendar are great places to start connecting).

With the Fashion Revolution campaign encouraging all to ask ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ we see more avenues for transparency, accountability, and education coming online.

Consumer care processes are actually 23% of the carbon footprint of a piece of clothing***, and we see consumers engaging with the supply chain and becoming prosumers – caring about proper washing, altering, mending, and wearing items for longer – we know more and more how vast textile waste is — with an average of 70 lbs per person each year heading to landfill — and both individuals and brands are addressing it by buying less or upcycling materials. Finally, we know students, artisans, and brands from small to large, are designing for change – looking at the full circular economy of clothing and anticipating a return to the landscape instead of a trip to the landfill when worn out.

Photo: Peggy Sue Collection 2017, via Peggy Sue Collection

With the Fashion Revolution underway, we need to dig down to the soil level. We need to ask deeper questions of brands and ourselves about each material ingredient and process throughout the life of a garment; we need scientists and activists to take the fashion industry seriously as a contributor to global climate change, and we need to invest in Climate Beneficial systems.

Let’s also extend the Fashion Revolution beyond one day or week of the year: we invite you to get to know your fibershed firsthand, to get to know a fiber farmer or take a natural dyeing class or become a prosumer by knitting a local shawl or making an outfit that’s grown and sewn close to home. If we struggle to take collective action to combat climate change because we can’t quite envision its impacts, or because our political climate refuses to address it, we know we can root ourselves in the soil, build community through educational and economic relationships, and take part in revolutionizing fashion from the ground up with our very own hands, together.

Jess Daniels provides research, communications strategy, and project management for Fibershed. She coordinates the Fibershed Affiliate Network and is an avid maker and explorer of slow fashion. 

Re-posted with permission from Fibershed. See the original article here.

Why Cheap Fashion Remains Deadly

Author: Jan Tomes | Published: April 24, 2017 

There is nothing as human as the act of dressing up. However, there is little that is humane about the industries that surround the act.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013, which killed 1,129 garment factory workers, has been perhaps the strongest manifestation of the moral decadence of the system that spits out cheap, low-quality clothes produced under very few regulations in third-world countries. Has anything changed in the past four years?

Whose responsibility?

Despite newly implemented sustainability and social responsibility programs by “fast fashion” brands such as the Swedish clothing giant H&M, which recognizes Germany as its biggest European market, the industry looks very much the same it did four years ago.

According to a recent study by Sarah Labowitz and Dorothée Baumann-Pauly published by New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, 3,425 inspections have taken place since October 2015 in Bangladesh, for example – but only eight factories passed them.

“There are two reasons why so few factories are successfully being fixed. First, the most essential upgrades to make factories safer, such as electrical improvements and moving to purpose-built facilities, are expensive,” says the research, estimating the average cost of remediation to $250,000 – $350,000 (230,000 – 322,000 euros) per factory. The second reason, according to the research, is that brands see it as the suppliers’ responsibility to pay for these expensive factory repairs.

Similar trends in the EU

Low wages, hazardous conditions, poor legislation, a lack of transparency in production lines and the brands’ denied responsibility are not only characteristic for the industry in Bangladesh, however.

Jost Franko’s photo series “Cotton Black, Cotton Blue” (picture gallery above) shows how the failures of the garment industry are systematic. In 2015 and 2016, Franko visited Bangladesh and Burkina Faso but also Romania, and his experience was similar in all countries. “Employees in the garment sector are one of the lowest paid workers in the European Union. Their wages are often lower than in factories in China,” he told DW.

Chains such as Primark, Zara, or H&M are not the only ones to outsource their production. According to the “Wall Street Journal,” about 20 percent of all goods by Prada, the leading Italian luxury brand, are made in China, and several lines by Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and other expensive names are produced in Cambodia and Romania, among others.


Noni’s Sheep: Climate Beneficial Wool

Author: Sasha Wirth | Published: April 15, 2017 

Photography by Paige Green

It began with only two sheep. Soon the two turned into eight. Then eighteen. Forty. Before long, Stemple Creek Ranch found itself with hundreds of sheep roaming the hillsides.

“The first two sheep started off as my grandmother’s pets,” laughs Loren Poncia, the fourth-generation caretaker of land that has been stewarded by his family since 1902. “Because of her we now have more than 600 sheep and expect it to grow to 1,000 in the next two years.”

His grandmother, Jennie “Noni” Poncia, lived her entire life on the ranch until she died at the age of 93. She spent her days in the barn or out in the fields, caring for all the animals with a gentle kindness and patience. When there was time to spare, she’d be found kneeling in the garden, pulling weeds and planting flowers for her family to enjoy.

“She was the Mother Theresa of animals,” smiles Poncia, remembering her unwavering dedication and devotion. “Noni raised all the calves, but she liked the sheep best. She’d exclaim ‘Oh, good!’ when bummer lambs were brought in from the field, like she was getting the best gift. They’re a lot of work, but she bottle-fed them without a second thought. Sometimes she even named them. Torpedo was one of her favorites.”

He shows a photo of Noni in later life, standing in a golden field. Her hair is tucked beneath a scarf and a wide smile spreads across her sun-kissed face. She glows, as only a woman who is assured and satisfied with her life can look.

“My daughters have that same spark. That soulful quality,” he says. “Like her, they adore the animals.”

When asked if they’ll take up the reins one day, he shrugs. For him, growing up on the ranch was a unique childhood – one he hopes to share with his girls. “Here you get to watch the cycle of life, and the seasons dance with Mother Nature. You see everything survive and prosper. It’s beautiful.” It’s what brought him back to the family’s historic homestead, and what he believes will inspire the fifth generation as well.

While the future looks promising, Stemple Creek has already had to survive quite a few transitions. From almost losing the ranch due to a crippling inheritance tax, to shifting from dairy operations to grass-fed beef and lamb production, the ranch has had to evolve. And all this time, Noni’s flock of sheep remained quietly and unassumingly in the background.

On any given day, they still tromp through the rolling green hillsides, where the ranch’s namesake creek meanders through the land. Salt from the nearby Pacific Ocean seasons the air, mixing with the minty scent of eucalyptus trees lining the property. Look closely among the shaggy coats and you’ll find the watchful, wagging tails of Salty, Pepper and Zeus — the ranch guard dogs.

“It isn’t easy raising sheep. It’s difficult work. They’re a target for predators,” confides Poncia. “In 30 nights we had 43 lambs stolen. But since we’ve had the three dogs, we haven’t lost a single one.”

With the lamb theft taken care of, Poncia has been able to contemplate a softer side to the hard business of ranching, and a new purpose for his sheep: wool.

Up until three years ago, wool was still considered a byproduct on the ranch – something that barely covered the cost of shearing. But with the growing demand and interest in locally-produced fiber, Poncia saw an opportunity. Though it would be a micro-industry, wool would add value to Stemple Creek’s overall farming business. It was an investment he could feel good about.

And good things, like Noni’s first sheep, tend to multiply. Along with a handful of other Northern California ranches, Poncia became involved in the 10-year Marin Carbon Project, which helps farms to responsibly sequester carbon on their land through various environmental practices.

By engaging with Marin Carbon Project, Stemple Creek has successfully implemented pasture seeding, windbreaks, prescribed grazing, compost applications, silvopasture techniques, and riparian restoration on its Tomales lands.  According to Dr. Jeff Creque, a co-founder of MCP and facilitator of Stemple Creek’s Carbon Farm Plan, “Implementation of the Stemple Creek Carbon Farm Plan can be expected to result in additional sequestration in Stemple Creek Ranch soils and vegetation of 849 metric tons of CO2e annually. For comparison, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of CO2e per year (EPA 2016), so this amount of CO2 sequestered would offset the emissions of about 180 passenger vehicles annually.”  And the research shows the improvement isn’t just for the given year.  The effects of Carbon Farming help mitigate climate change exponentially in the future, along with Loren’s plans to add trees along the creek and begin using vermicompost in the coming years.

This sustainable way of farming contributes to biodiversity and helps reverse climate change. It has also allowed Stemple Creek to invest in both its soil and its sheep simultaneously, becoming one of the first producers of Climate Beneficial Wool. By living and grazing on land that is managed with Carbon Farming techniques, Stemple Creek’s wool draws down more carbon out of the atmosphere than is produced in its raising and processing. It’s a certification that knitters and fiber artists can feel good about, too.

“The Carbon Project is a cool and important movement to be a part of. We’re preserving the environment while producing heirloom quality wool,” says Poncia.

To continue this wooly evolution of Stemple Creek, he’s excited to add new breeds to the existing flock – like Perendale sheep – to diversify his fiber offering. The current wool is primarily used as batting, and Poncia had the first batch made into a cozy comforter for him and his wife. But with more sheep, the possibilities are opening up.

“We’ll be upgrading to a king-size comforter next,” he grins.

And there – in his smile and among the grazing flock outside – one gets a glimpse of the true legacy that Jennie “Noni” Poncia has left behind.

To learn more about Stemple Creek Ranch, visit their website at and on Instagram @stemplecreek   To learn more about their Climate Beneficial wool batting, and products made from it, visit

Reposted with permission from Fibershed. See the original article here.

Patagonia’s New Clothes Are Made From Poop and Dried Beetles

Author: Eleanor Goldberg | Published: April 28, 2017 

Patagonia is putting bug poop in its new clothing line. You heard that right.

In an effort to dye its clothes without using toxic chemicals, the green-minded apparel company is making its new Clean Color Collection with natural dyes sourced from 96 percent renewable resources. Those include dyes derived from the poop of silkworms, dried beetles and byproducts of food waste, Patagonia announced Thursday.

“Why the alchemy?” the company said in a press release about its new experiment. “Because dye is dirty.”

The apparel line debuts at a time when consumers are increasingly aware of the hazardous materials used to produce clothing, even among big-name brands.

In 2012, Greenpeace conducted a major investigation into the contents of clothing items from 20 global fashion brands ― including Armani, Levi’s and Zara. Among its findings, it concluded that two articles of clothing from Zara contained cancer-causing amines from its use of azo dyes. Just days after Greenpeace published its report, Zara committed to going “toxic free” by 2020.

Patagonia said that many of its synthetic dyes use less water, energy and carbon dioxide than its competitors do, but it’s looking to further reduce its environmental impact.

Patagonia is also addressing the food waste crisis by incorporating byproducts of food waste into the line. Across the world, one-third of the food produced is lost or squandered. These byproducts are being saved from decomposing in landfills, where they’d otherwise release methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.


Fashion Revolution Week: Six Ways to Shop Mindfully

Author: Ellie Pithers | Published: April 26, 2017 

WHO made the clothes you’re wearing right now? It’s a simple enough question. But four years on from the Rana Plaza disaster, it’s more important than ever that we keep asking it.

This week marks the anniversary of the collapse of the Bangladesh factory complex that killed 1,138 garment workers and injured a further 2,500 in one of the worst industrial tragedies in history. In four years the Bangladeshi government, clothing companies, and labour unions have made some progress towards improving workers’ rights. 38 people have been charged with murder – although none have been convicted.

But just a few months ago, in January, protests erupted in Bangladesh over low pay at dozens of garment factories in Bangladesh. Scores of protesters have been arrested, and over 1,500 have lost or been suspended from their jobs, though that number is probably far higher, as a recent investigation by the New York Times found.

Conditions in the factories remain desolate. The minimum wage in Bangladesh – 32 cents an hour – is still frighteningly low, indeed the lowest minimum wage in the world. Garment workers earn £44 a month, which is nowhere near a living wage. And Bangladesh’s largest factory owner lobby has said it will not enter into new wage negotiations until 2018.

It’s easy to feel powerless when faced with these statistics. Fashion’s supply chains are incredibly complicated beasts that require hours of unravelling – from farm to factory to store, from zips to buttons to beading, it’s never clear under what conditions they came into being. Often brands don’t own factories outright – so garment production is subcontracted out, making it difficult to hold people to account. As Jenny Holdcroft, Assistant General Secretary at IndustriALL Global Union, told a panel at Fashion Question Time, held in the House of Commons on Monday: “Companies are getting the benefit of workers’ labour without shouldering the responsibility of being their employer.”

But it’s also easy to start asking questions. In the spirit of transparency, this week also marks Fashion Revolution Week, an ethical initiative whose current focus is #whomademyclothes, a campaign which encourages consumers to demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. Here are six ways to get involved with Fashion Revolution Week, and shop mindfully in the process.

Snap a label selfie, post it on Instagram or Twitter, tag the brand, and ask them #whomademyclothes. During Fashion Revolution Week last year, the hashtag reached 129 million people through 70,000 posts on Twitter and Instagram.


How You Can Get Involved in Fashion Revolution Week 2017

Author: Kendall Benton-Collins | Published: April 24, 2017

When faced with complexity, we have a tendency to bury our heads in the sand – an ancient survival mechanism perhaps? Creating a better, fairer world is hard. Fashion Revolution Week is a great way to begin.

The threads that bind us

The older I get, the more connections I see in the world around me. We live in a vast interconnected universe where seemingly disparate topics are in fact intimately linked on some level. Social justice, the multi-billion dollar fashion industry, environmental conservation and animal welfare – all of these things come into play every time we decide to purchase an item of clothing. It’s kind of overwhelming isn’t it? We can unwittingly impact on the world around us on a daily basis, without ever fully comprehending the consequences of our actions.

I can’t tell you that if you do x y and z everything will be fine and all fashion supply chains will become transparent and equitable tomorrow. But the good news is that we are not powerless. We can create positive change, which will lead to a socially and environmentally bright future. I know that we can do this. I also know that it won’t be easy…but it will be worth it!

Join the global revolution

About 75 million people work directly in the fashion and textiles industry. Many are subject to exploitation; verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe conditions, with very little pay. On April 24 2013, 1138 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. People all around the world are still suffering as a direct result of our fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organisation which is saying, enough is enough! All year round Fashion Revolution campaigns for systemic reform of the industry with a special focus on the need for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution Co-founder Orsola de Castro said:

“Have you ever wondered who makes your clothes? How much they’re paid and what their lives are like? Our clothes have gone on a long journey before they hit store shelves, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, and sewers. Eighty percent of them are women between the ages of 18 and 24. Many of the people who make our clothes live in poverty. This needs to change.”

Fashion Revolution Week (24 – 30 April) will bring people from all over the world together to ask brands #whomademyclothes, and to demand greater transparency to help improve the working conditions and wages of the people who make our clothes.

How to get involved

A simple but powerful step you can take during Fashion Revolution Week (and beyond) is to take a selfie showing your clothing label, tag the brand on social media and ask them #whomademyclothes? The important thing is to be persistent! Keep asking until you receive a satisfactory answer.


Why Transparency Matters

The 2017 Fashion Revolution Transparency Index

We believe transparency is the first step to transform the industry. And it starts with one simple question: Who made my clothes?

This is our focus for the next five years. We believe this simple question gets people thinking differently about what they wear. We need to know that as consumers, our questions, our voices, our shopping habits can have the power to help change things for the better. With more consumers encouraging brands to answer ‘who made my clothes?’, we believe Fashion Revolution has the power to push the industry to be more transparent.

While we are seeing companies share their policies and commitments on human rights and the environment, there is still much crucial information about the practices of the fashion industry that remains concealed — particularly when it comes to impact on the lives of workers in the supply chain and on the environment.

The Fashion Transparency Index 2017 reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.


Chemicals in Textiles: Risks to Human Health and the Environment

Published: 2004

The Swedish Chemicals Agency (Kemikalieinspektionen) was assigned by the Swedish government to compile available and relevant information about the risks to human health and the environment from hazardous substances in textile articles. The intention of this report is to serve as a base for further work on developing risk reduction measures for hazardous substances in textiles at the EU level. The study includes three main parts: a. An overview of textile consumption in the EU and Sweden. b. A screening study with the aim to identify hazardous substances/groups of substances posing a potential risk to human health and the environment. c. A literature study of data on exposures and effects related to hazardous substances in textiles.

Increasing consumption of textile articles and use of chemicals The consumption of textile articles has increased rapidly in the EU during the last decades. Textile materials are produced in large quantities and are included in a broad variety of widely used consumer articles. Chapter 3 presents an overview of consumption of textile materials and articles in the EU and Sweden.

Increasing production and consumption of textile articles also mean an increased use of chemicals and raw materials. Large quantities of chemical substances are used in the production of textiles, from processing of fibres and raw materials to the final touch of the finished article.

Substances used in the production of textiles can remain in the final article as minor contaminant amounts, and articles may also contain substances formed by degradation. Other substances are intentionally added to textile articles in order to provide a specified function, such as colour or easy-care. Substances in textile materials may be released from articles and expose humans and the environment. Textile articles are used in a way that both consumers the environment can be exposed to chemicals released from the articles. An overview is presented in Chapter 4.

Information is needed in the production- and supply chains

Although large quantities of substances are included in textile production, there is no comprehensive overview of hazardous substances that may be present in textile articles placed on the market.

To assess the chemical risks related to the use of textile articles it is necessary to have information about the identity of the substances and their hazardous properties. Access to information on the contents of hazardous substances in textile materials and articles is important for the manufacturers, importers and suppliers along the production and supply chains.

The requirement in the REACH Regulation, Article 33 (Section 2.1.1) concerning the duty on suppliers to provide information on hazardous substances in articles is limited to Substances of Very High Concern that are listed on the Candidate list. Thus, this duty to provide information does not included e.g. dermal allergens. 7

The majority, approximately 80%, of the textile articles consumed in the EU are imported from a non-EU country, and it is also common to import semi-finished textile materials while the article is finally manufactured and labelled in the EU. The textile supply chains are often long and complex with a global span and important information is drastically decreasing in the many steps from producer to consumer. The flow of chemical information in the supply chains is generally not adequate. The knowledge about chemical contents in textile articles should be made more readily available by increasing and improving the information exchange along the supply chain.

One step towards improved information exchange along the supply chain is the international initiatives in the SAICM programme Chemicals in Products (Section 2.3). The legal information requirement on suppliers of substances in articles needs to be further developed.

Identifying chemical substances related to textile articles

The study presented in Chapter 6 was performed to identify substances with a reported use in textile production. The REACH registration (Section 2.1.1) is one source of knowledge since data for hazardous properties and recommended use for substances should be included in the registration. Further data was also collected from several databases.

The focus of the screening study was to identify substances of potential risk to human health and the environment. Approximately 3 500 substances were identified as relevant for use in textile. However, the actual use and the presence in the final textile articles have not been verified for all these substances. It should be noted that this identification approach managed to cover only a part of all the substances that may be found in textile articles.

Of the identified substances about 2 000 substances are not yet registered under REACH. Due to the volume limit for registration and the limited obligations to register substances present in imported articles, the REACH registration data is insufficient for risk assessment of many substances used in textiles. In some cases REACH registration data for risk assessments was not easily accessible for evaluations of specific uses, and for about one third of the identified substances the REACH registrations was the only source indicating textile use.

Improved quality of data and increased availability in the REACH registration would facilitate and improve the decision-making regarding risk reduction measures for hazardous substances in textiles.

The focus of this study is functional chemicals as they are expected to be present in textiles at relatively high concentrations. However, auxiliary chemicals and unintended degradation products may also be present in the textiles and cause harmful effects on human health and the environment, but these types of substances are not covered by screening study due to the limitations.

Substances of potential risk to human health

Approximately ten percent of the identified 2 400 textile-related substances are considered to be of potential risk to human health. These substances are all functional chemicals, which are expected to be present in the final article at relatively high concentrations, and include azo dyes of direct and acid application type and fragrance. There may also be other types of substances, such as auxiliary chemicals and impurities/degradation products, that can be of potential risk to the human health. The concentration of such substances are generally lower 8 in the final textile article than the concentration of functional chemicals and therefore they were excluded from the scope of the screening study.

The identified azo dyes of direct application type have properties that are associated with an increased risk of cancer and developmental effects, whereas the identified azo dyes of acid application type and fragrances have properties that are associated with an increased risk of allergy.

The relevance of azo dyes was also confirmed by studies in the open literature. Azo dyes of direct application type are mainly used in cotton textile while azo dyes of acid application type are mainly used in polyamide. Since both cotton and polyamide are common materials on the EU market there is a potential for large-scale human exposure to azo dyes of direct and acid application type. These dyes are loosely bound to textile fibres and in particular small children sucking or chewing on textiles could be highly exposed. The dyes also have properties indicating that they are persistent in the environment and may accumulate in the aquatic food chain, which could lead to an indirect exposure of humans through dietary intake. For small children, ingestion of indoor dust, which to a large part consists of textile fibres, may also be an important exposure route to textile-related substances for small children, especially since textiles constitute a large part of the surface in the indoor environment.

The presence of hazardous substances in textiles, including azo dyes of direct and acid application type, should be further investigated.

Carcinogenic, reprotoxic and/or sensitising substances (allergens) should be avoided in articles with direct and prolonged skin contact. Although the methods we used to identify substances of potential risk involve many assumptions and limitations, the results are consistent and give reasons for further investigations, especially of azo dyes of direct and acid application type but also fragrances.

Substances that may cause severe health effects should be avoided in articles with direct and prolonged skin contact.

The overall scientific literature points out disperse dyes as the main cause of textile-related allergic skin reactions and disperse dyes were also identified as substances of concern in our screening study. In addition to the disperse dyes, we identified acid dyes as a group of sensitising substances of potential risk to human health that previously have not been associated with textile-allergy to any great extent. It is thus likely that the disperse dyes is not the cause of all reported cases of allergic skin reactions, for example certain acid dyes could also cause cases of allergic skin reactions.

Based on the findings of our screening study more than 200 allergenic textile-related substances, as for example acid-type dyes, could contribute substantially to allergic skin reactions. The testing of dermal allergy to sensitising dye substances used in textiles should be developed. Substances of potential risk to the environment Approximately five percent of the identified 2 400 textile-related substances are considered to be of potential risk to the environment. These chemicals are all functional chemicals which are expected to be present in the final article at relatively high concentrations. The evaluation of the function chemical substances clearly pointed out azo dyes of direct and acid application type as substance groups of potential risk to the environment. The 2 400 substances also include auxiliary chemicals or impurities.


Death From Above

Author: Christopher Collins | Published: April 17, 2017

It’s December in Quitaque, and from dusk till dawn, convoys of trucks brimming with freshly picked cotton barrel down Highway 86, destined for gins in nearby Silverton and Roaring Springs. There, giant vacuums draw the cotton into the bellies of whirring machines and then, emptied of their cargo, the trucks race back to the fields to be repacked. During harvest season, the roadsides of this part of the Texas Panhandle are lined with little white drifts of cotton.

Cotton farming is big business in this region, where most of the state’s $2.2 billion crop is grown. Quitaque, a community of 387 people about an hour and a half southeast of Amarillo, is surrounded by a phalanx of cotton farmers who each year plant tens of thousands of acres. The town is an island in a vast white sea.

Though the industry is a lifeline for Quitaque’s economy, and the lives of folks in town are tied to the work of neighboring farms, residents say the relationship has a big drawback: the repeated and indiscriminate spraying of pesticides that is killing trees, poisoning livestock and making people sick.

The cotton convoy is rushing up and down the highway as Jerry Beck, a portly, white-bearded man in his 60s, steps into the Caprock Cafe, a country diner run by his wife. Despite below-freezing temperatures, he wears a short-sleeved shirt with a pocket that bears the imprint of a chewing tobacco can. He looks every bit the former sheriff that he is.

Beck periodically spits into a Styrofoam cup as he explains that Quitaque is under siege by crop dusters, pilots hired by farmers to spray pesticides on fields to kill weeds and prepare the cotton plants for harvest. Sometimes the pilots miss their marks and inadvertently deliver a cloud of poison to people, plants and animals.

Beck has firsthand experience with the “chemical drift” problem, as regulators call it. In May 2016, a duster spraying a field near Beck’s house sent an off-target blast of paraquat dichloride, a toxic pesticide, wafting over his home. The next day, he noticed that his vegetable garden and fruit trees were starting to show signs of being poisoned, which he blames on the paraquat, according to his complaint with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). His biggest worry is that three of his grandkids were playing outside when the chemical drifted through his property.

“I remember thinking, ‘Boy, that ain’t good,’ because they were all exposed to it,” Beck said. In the following days, Beck’s granddaughters complained of headaches and difficulty breathing, problems that he attributes to the pesticide exposure.

The use of paraquat is tightly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the chemical’s extreme toxicity. It can cause death in humans, and even limited exposure can be “corrosive to the skin and eyes,” according to a risk assessment conducted by the agency. A 2009 UCLA study found that people exposed to paraquat are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. The chemical has been banned by the European Union and China.

The label printed on containers of Gramoxone, a widely used pesticide whose active ingredient is paraquat, warns against breathing the chemical’s mist and says to seek medical attention if the poison comes into contact with skin or clothing.

Based on interviews with 11 people in Quitaque, it appears that the chemical drifted at least 5 miles. Its path started behind Beck’s house on the south side of town, cutting a swath through downtown and moving farther east, where it spread to more rural areas. In its path were trees, gardens, livestock, pets and people.

Kim Reiss, who runs a commercial organic garden in Quitaque, claims the pesticide made her nose bleed. “That was so weird. I never have a bloody nose,” she said. Over the next few days, the fruits and vegetables in her garden began to die. The leaves of the plants were pocked with what she described as “cigarette burns” that kept getting bigger. Reiss said she lost $8,000 worth of produce. That’s in addition to the adverse effects of being exposed to pesticides before the fall harvest each year, when farmers hire crop dusters to spray cotton fields. “Usually, while they’re defoliating [the cotton], I spend a good portion of that time being sick,” she said. “They call it allergies. I call it being defoliated. It’s a strange place to choose to live.”

About a month later, in late June, Quitaque farmer and rancher C.L. Hawkins was repairing a fence in one of his fields when he says the wind carried a wave of pesticide onto him. “I was working on a fence right across the road, and he was sprayin’. Boy, I just went ahead and got out of there,” said Hawkins, who complained to TDA.

Then, in September, Quitaque wheat farmer and cattle rancher Paul Teegardin reported to the agency that the pesticide drifted onto grass he uses to feed his beef cattle. Though it was the first time he had filed a formal complaint, Teegardin said his land has been under assault by crop dusters for at least two years.


Organic Cotton Market Grows as Consumers Demand Sustainability

Published on: February 14, 2017

With growing concerns over sustainability and pollution globally, more organizations are beginning to turn to organic cotton when manufacturing textiles. Conventional cotton uses a very high amount of dangerous pesticides, and also requires a great deal of water. While organic cotton is more costly, it has a much smaller environmental impact. Additionally, as more people are beginning to factor in sustainability when buying clothing and other products, using organic cotton can give companies an edge over their competitors.

Currently only a small percentage of the global cotton market is organic, as it takes time to convert a traditional farm to an organic one, and production is more expensive. But there are many benefits to producing organic cotton, and not just to the health of the environment. It also impacts the wellbeing of the farmers and other nearby people.