The clothing we are wearing could be the cause to health issues including hormonal issues, metabolism issues, cancer and more...
Synthetic dyes have endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems at certain doses. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed by hormone disruptors.
The endocrine system is the balanced system of glands and hormones that regulates vital functions as body growth (including the development of the brain and nervous system), response to stress, sexual development and behaviour, production and utilisation of insulin, rate of metabolism, intelligence and behaviour, and the ability to reproduce. Hormones are chemicals such as insulin, thyroxin, oestrogen, and testosterone that interact with specific target cells. The endocrine system uses these chemicals to send messages to the cells – similar to the nervous system sending electrical messages to control and coordinate the body.
Studies after studies show our clothing is saturated in harmful chemicals from dying and processing yet 80 million garments are still being made every year with these chemicals.
The Toxic Trail of Clothes
Phthalates and NPE’s are among the chemicals known as “endocrine disruptors” which are used often and in vast quantities in textile processing.
In 2012, Greenpeace analysed a total of 141 items of clothing, and found high levels of phthalates in four of the garments and NPE’s in 89 garments – in quantities as high as 1,000 ppm – as well as a variety of other toxic chemicals.
The Greenpeace report comes after a slew of research over the past few years highlighting the potential health risks of various chemicals used in sportswear – primarily dyes, solvents, and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make items water, grease and stain-proof.
REI clothing company stated that "some type of chemical finish is applied to nearly every synthetic fabric in order to boost wicking performance."
A look at the tag in activewear garments reveals most are fashioned from synthetic fabrics. Plus, most trademarked technical fabrics—the ones we pay major bucks for—are chemically coated synthetic fabrics, says Mike Rivalland, director of activewear brand SilkAthlete. Santen agreed, telling us that "the bigger problem is that brands use additives to make gear stain repellent with per-fluorinated substances (PFCs) or to avoid unpleasant sweat odors by using toxic substances like Triclosan."
The impacts can be seen, and the chemicals are known to be in dyes, but questions still remain as to if and how they may enter the body if you wear a dyed garment. A German study showing that even when all known sources of endocrine disrupting chemicals were eliminated, women still continued to excrete metabolites of endocrine disrupting chemicals. So, somehow, they were still being exposed to them. Could it be their clothing?
The UN study, which is the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, highlights some associations between exposure to EDCs and health problems including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.
If one were to assume synthetic chemicals can be transferred through the skin, then one of the items of greatest concern would be your undergarments, such as underwear and bras.
Plant Based Natural Dyes
Today there is a whole spectrum of colours that can be obtained from a multitude of plants and these have been used across the centuries to dye textiles; colour artefacts; pattern and colour our skin, hair and even colour the food we eat, the discovery and use of such natural colorants has contributed to the maintenance of a strong bond between humankind and nature, which with help could revive and enhance what was once integral to human society.
Many of the plants used for dying are classified as medicinal and some of these have recently been shown to possess remarkable antimicrobial activity.
It is possible that the properties in natural dyes, which are responsible for forming these pigments can move or rub-off from the fabric to the surface of the skin thus providing anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and help promote healing and well being. With modern medicine now accepting the fact that the skin as an organ has greater absorbency properties that was once recognised, drug manufacturers are developing new administrative procedures in which drugs such as Ibuprofen in the form of gels and nicotine or hormones as skin. Skin absorption is a route by which substances can enter the body through the skin absorption it is often a route of exposure for toxic substances but can also be a route for the administration of medication.
The following are the plants we use for our current colours:
Charcoal - Ketapang leaves
Olive - Mango leaves and Mahogani leaves
Pumpkin - Mango leaves and Secang bark
Pink - Secang bark
Healing ourselves from the outside in. Infusion of mango leaf has been used for centuries as a stomach tonic, Secang Bark is antibacterial and anti-fungal (same bamboo fabric) and Mahogani Leaves has been used to treat bruises.
Underwear covers the most sensitive, absorbent area of our body and so changing what we wear is the easiest and fastest way to make the switch from harmful to healing.
View our plant dyed underwear here.