/ Blog / Toxic Chemicals in Fast Fashion Clothing Might Be Slowly Affecting Your Immune System


Erik Petrov1


07 October 2022

Toxic Chemicals in Fast Fashion Clothing Might Be Slowly Affecting Your Immune System

As the fashion industry has seen incredibly high growth in the last few years, the emergence of fast fashion has brought along a whole new host of problems. Fast fashion is the production of cheap but trendy clothing that is available at high street stores and online outlets. The basic premise of fast fashion is to see something on the catwalk and be able to have similar clothes in your closet as fast as possible. This has led to a system of overproduction and overconsumption in the fashion industry.


Over the years, fast fashion has been heavily criticized for a number of reasons. Some of these include the extensive environmental damage and pollution that results from overproduction. There is also a lot of outrage amongst the general public regarding the human rights violations that take place in fast fashion productions and how most fast fashion clothing is produced in workshops where workers' conditions are deplorable. And now, there is a huge concern that fast fashion clothes are made using harmful and toxic chemicals that can affect the wearers' immune systems.


5 Toxic Chemicals to Look Out For


Companies that fall under the banner of fast fashion produce cheap clothes in large quantities. As such, it can be brought into question just how much time, money, and energy they are spending on quality control and product safety. Many large fast fashion brands such as Shein, Old Navy, and Lululemon have been linked to using toxic chemicals in their clothes. 


Many of these toxic chemicals are used in clothing in a bid to cut down on production costs and increase profit margins. These chemicals are relatively cheap and offer advantages such as waterproofing or more vivid and bright coloring. Here are 5 toxic chemicals found in fast fashion clothes that you should look out for: 


1. Chromium 


Chromium is used in leather and other clothing materials mainly as a catalyst for dying the materials. It is mainly used in fast fashion for dying and tanning leather. Unfortunately, extended exposure to chromium can lead to kidney and liver damage. 


2. Phthalates


Phthalates can be found mostly in activewear and sports clothing. The main reason for the use of the chemical is that it is a plasticizer that can be used in printing images and logos onto clothes. Screen printing is made easier with the use of phthalates as they can soften the ink and make the transfer easier and quicker. However, the chemical is linked to the increased likelihood of cancers and heart disease in humans, as well as disrupted hormones. 


3. Brominated Flame Retardants


As you can guess from the name, brominated flame retardants are used to make clothing relatively fire-proof. They can be found in particular in children's clothing. Recently, there have been some studies on the link between brominated flame retardants and ADHD. 


4. PFAs


PFAs are known as forever chemicals. They are manmade chemicals that do not break down naturally and remain in the environment forever. PFAs are used in clothing mostly for making waterproof membranes in clothes like jackets and uniforms. However, PFAs have been linked to various conditions, including asthma, liver damage, and kidney disease. 


5. Lead


Lead was used heavily in clothing for bright pigments back before we knew the dangers of the chemical. In fast fashion, many companies continue to use lead despite the widespread knowledge of how damaging it can be to our health. Lead has been linked to long-term mental and physical developmental problems. 


Long Exposure to These Chemicals Weakens the Immune System 


The harmful chemicals used to make fast fashion clothing may actually cause more harm to the workers that manufacture the clothes rather than the people that wear them. While we understand that very small quantities of chemicals like chromium, phthalates, brominated flame retardants, PFAs, and lead are used in the production of clothing, it is important to acknowledge that sustained and long-term exposure to these toxic chemicals can actually increase people’s risk of serious health conditions.

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