Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My how things have changed, Eli

Wearing 100% cotton makes you feel like you're doing something good for yourself, doesn't it? Well, if you keep reading, that feeling is about to change.

Unless you're buying clothing that is made from organic cotton, watch out! At the very least, make sure you launder all of your clothing prior to putting it next to your skin! This is especially important when you're clothing your little ones.

Conventionally grown cotton is considered the 'dirtiest' crop across the globe. Why? Because of the massive amounts of insecticides used that have been proven to be the most dangerous pesticide to the health and well-being of animals and humans alike. No other single crop uses as much of these hazardous chemicals as is used to cultivate cotton.

The reason they are the most dangerous pesticides to our health? Because they are designed to effect the nervous and reproductive systems of the insects that are a threat to the crop; as a result, humans experience a plethora of both chronic and acute conditions, changes in behavior and, of course, an increased risk of cancer. There have even been deaths reported as a direct result of exposure to the pesticides.

Which insecticides are the worst culprits?
  • Aldicarb
  • Methamidopho
  • Parathlon
According to the World Health Organization, these three are included in the list of the ten most commonly used in the production of cotton. Aldicarb is the second best selling insecticide for cotton farmers. It is also the most poisonous to people. One drop of aldicarb absorbed through the skin can actually cause death. Yet we're still using it here in the United States, as well as in 25 other cotton-producing countries. Over a dozen U.S. states now have this toxic chemical in their groundwater.

Not only are the pesticides hazardous to people and to animals, but the nitrogen synthetic fertilizers used cause the most damage to the environment because of the leaching and runoff that pollutes our freshwater habitats and wells. While it's not my intention to add stress to your life, but I'd be very concerned if I were you if you have well water and live close to a cotton farm.

Another problem that exists with products crafted from conventional cotton farms, is the way the cotton is converted into articles of clothing. The hazardous materials involved in this process include:
  • silicone waxes
  • softeners
  • harsh petroleum scours
  • ammonia
  • heavy metals
  • flame and soil retardants
  • formaldehyde
Lovely. Like I said, wash your clothing well before wearing!

These manufacturing poisons produce huge amounts of toxic wastewater as the residues from chemical cleaning, dyeing and finishing are carried away. The result is a depletion of oxygen in the water which ultimately kills the aquatic animals and disrupts the aquatic ecosystems.

The picture just keeps getting worse, doesn't it?

The alternative is to buy organic cottons and other natural fibers, and here's why:
  • The use of synthetic chemicals to control insects and pests is strictly forbidden, except in extreme cases. What organic farmers use to ward off pests are natural predators and intercropping. They also have special machinery and use fire for weed control.
  • Natural fertilizers are part of organic farming. Compost and animal manure recycle the nitrogen already present in the soil rather than adding more. This results in a reduction of both pollution and N2O emissions.
  • Zero health risk is imposed by organic farming because there are no agrochemicals used or produced.
From all I've learned, I'm not only concerned about my clothing, sheets, etc., but I'm also concerned about what I put into my body if cottonseed oil is listed in the ingredients. I personally don't think Eli Whitney had any of this in mind when he first revealed his cotton gin to the world. Then again, if you delve far enough into history, you'll see it wasn't really his invention after all, but that of Catherine Littlefield Green, who allowed him to patent it because, well, it just wasn't a womanly thing to do back in the late 1700s. What can I say?

Keeping it green and healthy,


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