It’s a question that I am asked a lot of times. To be honest, I myself have asked this question. We all can understand the immediate benefits of having organic food. In simple layman terms organic food means food without chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, hormones etc. And we all understand that ingesting food has a direct effect on our health and which in turn means that chemical free food is directly beneficial for our health. Same thing goes for cosmetics, since we are putting them directly on our skin we understand the benefits of chemical-free cosmetics.
But what about clothes? Why the hullabaloo about organic cotton?
Cotton is entwined with our daily lives. Towels, Bed sheets, Blankets, Diapers, Fabric - its everywhere. It’s the most popular fabric in the world. Cotton evokes images of purity and comfort and many of us think that it is pure and natural. So we put cotton next to our skin because it breathes, absorbs and offers comfort.
But turns out that cotton is among the dirtiest crops in the world. The Environmental Justice Foundation lists 16 pesticides used in cotton growing, many of which are extremely hazardous and carcinogenic. It uses more chemicals in its production than any other human grown plant.
You may say, so what? The pesticides and chemicals are sprayed during the growing, and we are not eating cotton, we are wearing it, so what does it matter?
Turns out the story doesn't end there. Manufacturing cotton fiber into fabric and garments consists of several major processes such as cleaning, spinning, knitting or weaving, dyeing, finishing, and cleaning. Conventionally manufactured cotton must be chemically processed to become the soft fiber that consumers love. During processing, it is subjected to chlorine bleach, heavy metal dyes and formaldehyde resins (the hidden hazard of 'easy care treatments'). The bleach is almost worse than pesticides, causing myriad health problems and vast environmental damage. The chemical residues of these processes constitute the major sensitivity problems. Washing and dyeing of fabric again involves use of toxic chemicals.
Which begs the question – Would you wear toxic chemicals or let your children (who have a delicate and sensitive skin) wear them?
So, how is organic cotton good?
Organic Cotton is grown without the use of any synthetic chemicals i.e., pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic farmers rely on crop rotation to replenish and maintain soil fertility. Mechanical cultivation and botanical or biological means are used to control pests and weeds.
A field must be pesticide-free for at least three years to be certified organic, and the cotton must be processed according to international organic standards.
During manufacturing and processing organic clothing manufacturers do not add chemicals, formaldehyde, antiwrinkling agents, chlorine bleaches, or other unauthentic materials. Natural alternatives are used. Strict testing ensures the absence of contaminants like nickel, lead, formaldehyde, amines, pesticides and heavy metals.
Babies and people with allergies and skin sensitivity benefit greatly from organic cotton. But, even if your skin is not sensitive, organic cotton would just feel great when you wear it, when you sleep on it and when you dry yourself with it. It would just feel right, both for your skin as well as your conscience.
So will you buy organic cotton clothes?
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