Parents and caregivers are becoming more aware of the hidden dangers lurking in conventional baby clothes. Today there’s a growing call to look beyond the aesthetics and choose kind baby clothes for your little ones. In this blog post, we’ll break down why.
What goes into conventional baby clothes
Most baby clothes are made of conventional cotton, or nylon and other synthetic fibers. While these fabrics do have their merits, they’re not exactly healthy or environmentally responsible.
Conventional cotton, for example, is notorious for the copious amounts of water and pesticides used to grow it. This impacts the water supply in cotton-growing countries and contaminates the waterways when pesticides wash away.
Synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon contribute to microplastic pollution. Microscopic bits of these fabrics break off during repeated use and laundering. As a result, they wind up in rivers and, ultimately, in the ocean and the seafood that humans eat.
Harmful chemicals in conventional baby clothes
Textiles from synthetic and conventional fibers are treated with harmful chemicals to make them resistant to fire, wrinkles, water, and stains, and to make them absorbent to dyes. While these features sound great, the health risks associated with exposure to these chemicals are enough reason to make you think twice about them.
- Azo dyes are the most common synthetic fabric colorant. Studies show that some are carcinogenic and allergenic.
- Formaldehyde is used as an anti-wrinkling agent in clothing. Although a known carcinogen, its use remains unregulated in the US and some baby clothing brands contain formaldehyde levels 900 times higher than the international standard.
- Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are used to make textiles resistant to water, wrinkles, and stains, and are commonly used in outerwear like jackets, raincoats, and shoes. PFCs can remain in the environment and accumulate in the bodies of animals and of humans, and a derivative, called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is a known toxic blood contaminant.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are surfactants used in washing fabrics after dyeing. NPEs end up in our water systems and wreak havoc on our hormones.
- Phthalates are also used in dyeing and printing on fabrics. Phthlates are continuously released into the environment, and some types of phthalates are known hormone disruptors. Small children and babies are particularly at risk due to hand-to-mouth behavior. Hormone-disrupting phthalates can affect birth outcomes in pregnant women.
Choose natural fabrics
Natural fibers come from plants or animals, and are favored for their breathability, softness, durability, and safety. The best types of natural fabrics for your baby are organic cotton, hemp, and Bamboo.
Let’s look at each fabric closely.
While conventional cotton is known for its outsized water and pesticide requirements, organic cotton uses far less water and is free of pesticides and toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. Organic cotton is soft and breathable, making it ideal for baby clothes.
Unfortunately, greenwashing is rampant in the fashion industry. So make it a habit to look for a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification in baby clothing brands. This helps you ensure their safety and avoid greenwashing.
Hemp is one of the most responsible and renewable natural fabrics. Hemp doesn’t require pesticides and herbicides because it naturally repels weeds and pests. Its roots also grow deep into the soil, using groundwater efficiently and protecting the soil from erosion.
While hemp clothing was once known for being scratchy, that notion is now a thing of the past, and it's now possible to make hemp fabric soft enough for a baby's delicate skin. Hemp will keep baby cool on hot summer days and warm in the winter months.
Bamboo fabric is heralded for its many environmental benefits — specifically, for its renewability and resource efficiency. Bamboo can regrow quickly after harvest and thrive with little need for water or pesticides. However, producing eco-friendly bamboo fabric is a labor-intensive process, and some companies greenwash.
Bamboo needs to undergo intense processing to soften its stiff fibers. This can be achieved through traditional, labor-intensive methods, but too often is done by using harsh chemicals. However, many companies do produce bamboo fiber the right way by using mechanical processing or by implementing a closed-loop system in their manufacturing. You can get this information on the brand's website. You can also verify the claim by searching for the name of the company in the GOTS Public Database.
Look for certifications
Greenwashing can be a real problem when choosing natural-fiber clothes so, it’s best to look for certifications. This ensures the material is grown and processed safely. Here are two safety seals you should look for when on natural baby clothes.
GOTS is an international, non-profit organization that ensures organic textiles are produced through organic farming and responsible processing. When GOTS certifies a textile as organic, it means two things:
- It contains at least 70% organic fibers.
- All substances used in the process, including the dyeing and manufacture of the textile, have met critical environmental and toxicological criteria.
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
Oeko-Tex is an international, non-governmental, independent research and test institute whose mission is to ensure the textile industry's safety and sustainability. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is the highest certification for garments, and means that every single component is free of harmful substances.
Go beyond clothes
Choosing kind fabrics with the recommended safety seals is an excellent way to reducing your baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals. But it’s also essential to apply the same level of strictness to other things that touch your little one’s skin -- including diapers.
DYPER ticks all these boxes and more! Not only is it absorbent, but they make sure to protect your little one’s sensitive skin and ensure their diapers are made without harmful chemicals or potential irritants such as natural rubber latex, alcohol, perfumes, PVC, lotions, TBT, or Phthalates. DYPER diapers are also independently tested and certified Standard 100 by OEKO TEX®, a leading Swiss certification body, and achieved the coveted 5-star rating by DermaTest®.
Curious about DYPER™ products? Browse here.
(1) Chapagain, AK et al. 2005. The Water Footprint of Cotton Consumption. UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. Research Report Series No. 18. Retrieved from https://www.waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Report18.pdf.
(2) Memon QUA, et al. 2019. Health problems from pesticide exposure and personal protective measures among women cotton workers in southern Pakistan. Sci Total Environ. 2019 Oct 1;685:659-666. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.173.
(3) King-Thom Chung. 2016. Azo dyes and human health: A review, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part C, 34:4, 233-261, DOI: 10.1080/10590501.2016.1236602
(4) Brigden K, Santillo D, Johnston P. 2012. Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) textile products, and their release through laundering. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report 01/2012. Retrieved from https://www.greenpeace.to/greenpeace/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Dirty_Laundry_Product_Testing_Technical_Report_01-2012.pdf
(5) Li HL, Ma WL, Liu LY, Zhang Z, Sverko E, Zhang ZF, Song WW, Sun Y, Li YF. Phthalates in infant cotton clothing: Occurrence and implications for human exposure. Sci Total Environ. 2019 Sep 15;683:109-115. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.132.