Toxic substances in textiles can be recognized by their smell

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Study: clothing is often contaminated with hormonal chemicals

Many textiles are contaminated with hormonally active nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) and are harmful to the environment. This was the result of an investigation by the environmental protection organization Greenpeace. Washing the clothes would release the harmful substances into the environment. Andreas Metzger from TÜV Rheinland reports that toxic substances in textiles trigger allergic reactions in the skin and could be harmful to health.

European Ecolabel provides information about compliance with limit values ​​for textiles
When it comes to highly toxic and polluting textile production, most people think of developing countries or China, where workers are forced to risk their health for starvation wages. But exactly these textiles can also be found in Germany, because most companies have the goods produced in low-wage countries and then imported.

On Tuesday, Greenpeace presented its study on residues of the hormonally active nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) in imported textiles. Although NPEs are not considered to be directly harmful to health, the chemicals get into the sewage system and sewage treatment plants through washing clothes and thus into the environment again. In the European Union, however, the use of NPEs in production is banned or severely limited, reports Greenpeace.

Andreas Metzger from TÜV Rheinland in Cologne explains that clothing treated with chemicals and contaminated with pollutants can also be harmful to human health. When trying them on in the store, it is difficult to determine such a load, since the skin-irritating pollutants only develop their unpleasant effects after long wearing. "If something smells inappropriate, you should stay away from it," advises the expert. Certain certifications and labels also help identify safe clothing. These include the European Ecolabel or the Tooxproof label from TÜV Rheinland. For example, both provide information about compliance with legal limit values. Metzger also names the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) label, which certifies clothing made from natural fibers. People suffering from a nickel allergy can use a nickel rub test from the pharmacy to test buttons or buckles. "But this is only possible if the button is not covered with a layer of lacquer," explains the expert.

Chemical clubs often hidden in clothing
Velvet-soft sweaters, dimensionally stable jackets and wrinkle-free trousers are loved by consumers. However, a lot of chemicals are usually used in the manufacture of these products to artificially produce such textures. The Swedish health authority examined at the end of last year how high the chemical content in garments is. The “Apotheken Umschau” took a closer look at the study results and analyzed them. Peter Kanzler, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, explains that there is a lot of chemistry in textiles. Up to six kilograms of chemical are required to produce one kilo of clothing. Among other things, these would ensure that the color was washable, the fabric was soft and also wrinkle-free.

There are also organic seals for textiles
If you want to be on the safe side, you should look for organic seals. Products that carry such an organic seal are 100 percent environmentally friendly and manufactured without harmful substances. The clothing often consists of hemp, cotton, bamboo fibers or cork and has long since ceased to look “eco”. The number of manufacturers of modern, contemporary organic clothing is steadily increasing. The textiles are from biologically compatible cultivation, free from toxins and chemical coloring agents and optically correspond to the trend. If there is also a “fair” or “fair trade” mark next to the organic label, workers in the producing countries receive fair wages and produce under environmentally friendly working conditions. (ag)

Read on:
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Image: Alexander Dreher /

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