When it comes to health, you usually thinking about what you eat, what you clean with, and what you apply to your skin.
Choosing natural makeup and organic cleaning products over conventional store brands, and making healthier food choices are all proactive steps to guarding both your health and the health of the planet.
So it may come as a surprise to learn that what you wear can impact not only your health but the environment as well!
And at the top of the fabric list is the world's most favorite fiber, cotton. Universally loved for its softness and durability, cotton is also the world's dirtiest textile.
How Conventionally Grown Cotton is Grown and Processed
It's sad to think that even the clothes you wear can be toxic to your health and to the world, but it's true.
Conventionally grown cotton has a cascading effect on your every day life. From food, furniture, bedding, and personal care, that beloved filament has a health trickle down effect that's alarming.
Worldwide, conventional cotton growers use 16% of the world's pesticides. Of that, eight of the top 10 pesticides most used here in the US are classified as moderately to highly hazardous by the World Health Organization.
Equally alarming, cotton is one of the top four GMO crops produced in the world with 83% genetically modified.
That's followed by:
Soy--89% is genetically modified
Canola--75% is genetically modified
Corn--61% is genetically modified
According to a 2010 USDA survey, 90% of US cotton is a genetically modified with 95%-98% now genetically engineered in nine of the eleven cotton-producing states that were surveyed. (Source: USDA Economic Research Service, July 1, 2011)
Unbelievably, 65% of conventional cotton ends up as part of our food chain through food oils.
Cotton also becomes part of our food chain indirectly, through the meat and milk of animals that feed on cotton gin by-products and cotton seed meal.
These gin by-products, known as "gin trash," are all the parts of cotton that are not used in cotton textile production, such as stalk, cotton seed, burrs, leaves, dirt, twigs, etc.
This gin trash is sold to other food companies for further processing to become cotton seed oil, as well as fillers and additives in processed foods for livestock soil compost mix and feed.
And even though cotton isn't a food, these food manufacturers produce cotton seed oil for human consumption.
Cotton seed oil is then used to produce:
What's more, the final waste from processing ends up in our water supply.
Any leftover cotton cellulose fibers that were too short to be spun into fabrics are used as food additives.
These cellulose fibers are added to many foods to stabilize and thicken those products.
It's also used as a filler to increase serving sizes without increasing calorie consumption. Basically a plastic, you'll find it in:
flavored milks and milk powder
Pre-cooked pastas & rice products
Yeast & soybean products
Sweeteners & seasonings
Some brands of pizza cheese
Why Organic Cotton is Healthier for You and the Environment
To keep up with the demand, cotton growers use excessive amounts of pesticides to make it grow faster. That means the production of conventional cotton requires a LOT of water, over 5200 gallons to produce the equivalent of a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
It also means the world's most popular fabric is loaded with as many as 8,000 chemicals from production to finishing. The prints on cotton clothing, for example, generally are made with PVC, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals.
It's no wonder allergic skin reactions occur!
Not so with organic cotton. Completely handpicked, the purity of the cotton fibers
are preserved so that the fibers are not damaged.
The production care with organic cotton is much gentler and more attentive.
Consequently, fibers are softer because they are longer, which also makes it a more durable fabric.
The opposite is true with conventionally grown cotton.
Because of consumer demand, regular cotton is machine-picked which causes the fibers to become damaged. And that leads to waste and loss.
Seeds are also genetically modified to fight resistance to bugs. As pests adapt, though, more pesticides are required.
Organic cotton uses no pesticides. Insects are used to kill pests and seeds are natural. Organic cotton crops are also rotated, which requires less irrigation and healthier crops.
Regular cotton is grown on the same soil year after year. It doesn't allow the ground to rest and recover. Instead, the soil becomes degraded, and more water is required for crop growth, and crops are not as healthy.
The pesticides used in cotton production poison farmers worldwide. The World Health Organization calculates that there are 20,000 deaths each year in developing countries caused by pesticide poisoning.
In the US, 10,000 farmers die each year from cancer-related cotton pesticide poisonings.
Pesticides unintentionally poison approximately 67,000,000 birds every year, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
These chemicals also seep into run-off water following heavy rains, which in turn, poisons waterways, lakes, and rivers.
Increasingly, pesticide residue is found in farm animals, foods, and even breast milk.
Thankfully, more fashion houses and name brands are making the commitment to buy organic materials.
H & M just became the world's largest buyer of organic cotton.
Still, only about 1% of the cotton produced and manufactured in the world is organic.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Obviously, the story of cotton is a thorny, complicated one. You can't go into your closet and throw out everything you own because it's not organic!
But you can take small but important steps with your personal care. Whenever you can, buy organic cotton clothes.
For your personal care, choose organic cotton-based products. Here at Jewell's
Naturals, we've made a commitment to carrying organic personal care items such as:
Organic baby wipes
Organic cotton tampons
Organic panty liners & panty liners with wings
Organic cotton balls, cotton rounds, and swabs
Organic cotton washcloths
Additionally, we also buy organic cotton terry cloth fabric and have a local sewing company, Queen City Sewing, make organic washcloths to sell.
The commitment, bit by bit, to a healthier body is the key to changing not only your life, but the world we live in!
Learn more about Jewell's Naturals and our commitment to good health at: www.jewellsnaturals.com.