Why buy organic cotton? It is all the same business, you might think, just as I did until I did some research on the topic. Here’s the story of your clothes!
What is wrong with the industry?
Did you know that worldwide cotton production is one of the most polluting crops in the world? Being a consumer of sportswear myself, it was a shocking fact to me that cotton is actually responsible for 25% of the worldwide use of pesticides.
Earlier days farmers used to pick cotton by hand, but because of the great demand nowadays machines are used to harvest on a high speed. Therefore the plants are treated with a product that makes all the leaves drop off, very toxic stuff! It’s like Vietnamwar all over again, Agent Orange! Some products which are even prohibited in Europe, get exported to developing countries for cotton production.
Plants get sprayed up to 5 times a year and because of growing resistance of the insects the spraying starts early on from baby crop. These toxic substances get well absorbed in the cotton and pollute the air to form a big treat to the health of surrounding communities(poisoning, fertility problems, pesticides in breast milk). And of course all the people that get their hands on the cotton, from the field untill it’s hanging in your closet as your newest garment. You can imagine how many people get involved in this proces, right?
How do these toxins enter our body?
Well, through the air we breath and through our largest organ, the skin. The skin needs to detoxify the body through the pores. When we wear polluted cotton, we are actually poring the toxins into the body. The dust of this polluted cotton spreading through the air and skin contact with the deleafing agent causes breathing disorders and skin irritation. It is estimated that yearly over 1 million people suffer from acute poisoning, caused by overusage of pesticides.
Some of them affect consumers’ health and are suspected of causing allergies, eczema or cancer (PAN UK, 2006).
What about the soil
A combination of resistance, quickly emerging plagues and a higher amount of fertilizers used, lead to an increase in productioncosts. So after a few years, this whole system has drained itself; the soil gets diseased and farmers leave in search for other areal. Every year many thousands of acres are ruined and ten thousands of people are affected. Above all, research tells us that the conventional cotton industry uses over 5 times the amount of water, 2600 l of water to produce one t-shirt, than the organic farming industry does.
After the harvest the story continues.
In the whole proces from boll of cotton until a ready-to-use fabric, chemicals are used in every single production phase: silicone waxes, ammonium, formaldehyde, petroleum, softening agents, flame retardants. To make the cotton fabric standardized white, hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite is used. To be colored in a desired color, which very often contain heavy metals like lead, zink, copper or chrome.
In the ecological cotton production one can distinguish two different categories; organic cotton and untreated cotton, where as the latter gets a ecological responsible treatment after the harvest. Organic cotton also is guaranteed unsprayed during cultivation.
So why buy organic clothes?
- For the production of 1 T-shirt about 150 g of chemicals is used.
- Conventional cotton uses 10% of agricultural areal, but is responsible for 25% of the worldwide use of pesticides.
- 2600 l of water is needed to produce one t-shirt
- many chemicals are considered to be dangerous for our health
More than ever a responable use of areal is necessary for the sustainability of our planet!