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Are the Toxic Dyes in your clothing making you sick?
Combining her love for fashion and sustainability, fashion expert and passionate health crusader, Michelle Korbel is the Founder and CEO of Ohganix®; a lifestyle company for men and women focused on creating health conscious organic apparel.

To Die For : are toxic dyes making you sick?

Toxic dyes vs Natural Dyes

Natural plant-based dyes are better for your health than toxic dyes.

Did you know you could be walking around wearing a mix these toxic ingredients: cancer causing amines, heavy metals, arsenic, formaldehyde, petrochemicals, chlorine bleach and other carcinogens? Yes indeed! These are all ingredients that are used to make up synthetic conventional clothing dyes. Toxic dyes in our clothing is not something most of us consider to be an important factor in regards to our health, but with so many people getting sick we need to look at everything we do and consume.

What impact do these toxic dyes have on your health?

Your skin is your largest organ of the body, absorbing over 60% of whatever it comes in contact with (including the chemicals found in your clothing). What goes on the skin absorbs into your body. As we are becoming more and more aware of how the chemicals in our consumer products affect our health, it is important to take note of what your clothing may contain as well.

Question: Have you ever worn a pair of jeans that turned your legs blue?

Chemical toxic dyes on clothing can continue to bleed for the lifetime of the garment.

How to protect yourself – know your dyes!

There are basically four categories of clothing dyes:

  1. Synthetic/conventional
  2. Azo free/low impact
  3. GOTS certified
  4. Organic/natural/clay and plant-based dyes

Most synthetic fabrics contain synthetic dyes also known as azo dyes. These dyes contain chemical carcinogens like; petrochemicals, formaldehyde, amines, and heavy metals, ingredients that are all known to cause cancer, disrupt your hormones and cause other ailments such as infertility, respiratory diseases, and contact dermatitis. These dyes can affect a person’s health via water exposure, inhalation, and skin contact.

Azo free dyes are still chemical based, they are just free of the azo compounds and toxic heavy metals. So this is a better option; however, they are still chemical based and can impact ones’ health.

GOTS certified dyes have imposed regulations and standards. GOTS dyes are prohibited from containing toxic materials including heavy metals, flurocarbons, ammonia, bleaches and formaldehyde. Therefore all the GOTS dyes are certified as “nontoxic” and have been tested to not cause any dermatological health affects. GOTS dyes are usually found in many certified organic and natural fibered clothing. It is important to note that these dyes are still synthetically based which can compromise the integrity and nature of an organic garment if you are looking for a truly 100% pure organic garment. Therefore, if you have extreme sensitivities or prefer a garment that is made only from organic ingredients, opt for a garment that has either been colored with clay dyes or botanically derived materials.

Naturally derived clay and plant-based dyes are the most ideal dyes to have in your clothing. Plant-based dyes are made from naturally derived ingredients such as roots, nuts, flowers, clays, and tree barks. Dating back to 3,000 BC, plant-based dyes are the oldest dye method and now unfortunately the least common, due to time and cost.

There is a no dye way…

Another option is to look for organic/natural fibered clothing that has not been dyed. This fabric is often labeled as “Natural” or PFD (prepared for dye). Although, you want to make sure the fabric has not had any chemical whitening agents added to it during the manufacturing process. Additionally, you can look for clothing made from naturally colored fibers such as those from naturally colored organic cotton, coming in beautiful shades including green, pink and blue! The color of the cotton crop remains within the fibers and the end result is a healthier happier you!

Synthetic toxic dyes are destroying our environment!

There is no proper disposal of waste sludge from synthetic toxic dye production. These hazardous chemicals end up finding their way into our waterways and soil. In fact, 20% of fresh water pollution comes from textile treatment and dying. Additionally, being made from unsafe substances these dyes are not biodegradable, adding chemicals into our landfills and the ecosystem.

Incineration/burning of these synthetic materials is the only way to truly dispose of them; which in-turn emits toxic residues into the air. The end result and consequence of these pollutants into our precious ecosystem is yet another factor affecting our health as a generation.

toxic dyes and Woman at river

Planet Earth is at a toxic crossroad…

It is vital what we choose to put on and into our bodies and into our ecosystem. Our current state of health along with the health of our future generations are dependent on the choices we decide to live by each day. If we continue to support petrochemical industries and synthetically derived everything, we will continue to see ill effects to our health and our environment. Choose to vote with your dollars and support organic and naturally derived products. Our future depends on it!

If you would like to take an additional step in voting for your right to clean clothing, sign Green Peace’s Detox Fashion Manifesto to challenge major clothing brands to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products. Click here to sign Green Peace’s Detox Fashion Manifesto


What actions can you take today to help the planet and yourself

This video explains well the cost of fashion on the planet and now that you have read about the toxic dyes that might be lurking in your clothing, time to really think about how you use your purchasing power to keep yourself and our world healthy. What small change will make today towards a better future?