Several years ago I started having skin (and breathing) reactions to many fabrics and/or dyes. Soon I realized I could no longer wear synthetics against my skin, nor sleep on them. My alternatives are cotton, silk, wool and linen.
That eventually led me to Maggie's Organics http://www.organicclothes.com/ for cotton or linen clothing. One thing that really impressed me about their site is the following information on growing cotton organically vs conventionally (which they gave me permission to copy here, by the way).
Below you will find some enlightening information about Conventional Cotton growing practices prevalent in the US. This information is largely responsible for getting us into the Organic Cotton business. Once one realizes the enormity of the pesticides and chemicals used each year to grow and process cotton, it is easy to see why we are so passionate about what we do.
* Cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world —after Coffee and before Tobacco.
* The world’s Cotton crop represents approximately 3% of all cultivated land. This same crop utilizes 25% of the world's annual pesticide production, and 10% of the annual herbicide production.
* Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are KNOWN cancer-causing chemicals. All nine are classified by the U.S. EPA as Category I and II— the most dangerous chemicals.
* It is estimated that it takes approximately 1/3 pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one T-shirt.
* In the U.S. today, it takes approximately 8-10 years, and $100 million to develop a new pesticide for use on cotton. It takes approximately 5-6 years for weevils and other pests to develop an immunity to that same new pesticide.
* Cottonseed, the by-product of ginning cotton fiber, accounts for 60% of the yield from each harvest. The cottonseed is where the most concentrated amounts of pesticide residues remain. Some of this cottonseed is made into oil; the oil you read on the ingredient labels of cookies, cakes, and snacks. Some of this cottonseed is sent to our dairies and cattle ranches. This chemical cottonseed ‘enriches’ the butterfat in dairy, and marbles the beef that we eat.
* In California, it has become illegal to feed the leaves, stems, and short fibers of cotton known as ‘gin trash’ to livestock, because of the concentrated levels of pesticide residue. Instead, this gin trash is used to make furniture, mattresses, swabs, cottonballs and tampons. The average American woman will use 11,000 tampons during her lifetime.
* During a tour of California’s San Joaquin valley, where over 18 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed annually onto one million acres of cotton, a group stopped at two enormous toxic settlement ponds, where contaminated water from the fields is drained and left to seep into the soil. This water contains huge concentrations of salt, selenium, boron and pesticide runoff, which has caused serious damage to soil and groundwater. "(This land) It will never be usable again" says Will Allen, of the Sustainable Cotton Project. "And I don’t mean in our lifetimes; I mean forever."
* In California’s San Joaquin Valley, estimates are that less than 25% of a pesticide sprayed from a crop duster ever hits the crop. The remainder can drift for several miles, coming to rest on fruit and vegetable crops, and farm- workers. One year more than one hundred workers fell ill after a single incident of such drift onto an adjacent vineyard.
* One of the commonly used pesticides on cotton throughout the world, endosulfan, leached from cottonfields into a creek in Lawrence County, Alabama during heavy rains in 1995. Within days 245,000 fish were killed over 16 mile stretch. 142,000 pounds of endosulfan were used in California in 1994.
* The problems with clothing production don’t stop in the field. During the conversion of conventional cotton into clothing, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage— silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde— to name just a few.
I mostly buy my summer socks from Maggie's site, and usually just the misfits because of my budget, and I appreciate their socially responsible business practices tremendously.
I had a hard time finding a mattress pad with 100% cotton filler. Most just have cotton covering over polyfill. Sheets are a problem also. I do find I can use synthetics somewhat IF I have a barrier between my skin and them.
I know there must be other organic clothing and household fabrics sites now.
So, what others have these increasing problems? How do you address them? It took 5 hospital stays over a 3 year period for doctors to finally narrow mine down to "Environmental Allergies" which is really different than allergies from the environment like pollens.