A Fashion Safety Dilemma

The parable, “The Emperor’s New Suit,” by 19th century author Hans Christian Andersen, should hold new levels of meaning for us today.

Pride, vanity, and stubborn denial, all on display in this story, also characterize our real life clothing choices. We refuse to recognize that the synthetic fiber clothing we wear carry documented threats to personal health and to public well-being.

The “Emperor” ruling most wardrobe choices today is style and fashion.

This Emperor is worshipped at an economic altar on which considerations

of health and safety have largely been sacrificed. Clothing is presently a

$7 trillion a year industry.


The Textile Industry

Ornamenting the human body, whether with paint or tattoos or clothing, seems to have always been our natural impulse, but was a secondary consideration to comfort and protection from the elements.

Some of the earliest sewing needles made from ivory and bone have been

carbon-dated to about 30,000 BC by archeologists. The production of clothing was labor-intensive, time-consuming, and a tedious hands-on process.

The Industrial Revolution mechanized the textile industry so that the mass production of clothing became both possible and profitable. Cotton, flax, wool, and silk remained the mainstays until the petrochemical revolution of the

20th century brought synthetic fibers, made in chemical laboratories.


A Synthetic Timeline

1924: Rayon. The first artificial textile fiber, though variations of this wood-based compound had been in use since the previous century.

1939: Nylon. The first truly synthetic fiber. Made from toluene, which replaced silk in parachute production for WWII.

1950: Acrylic and Modacrylic. These “wash-and-wear” fabrics, often replacing wool in sweaters.

1953: Polyester. These ‘wrinkle-free’ fabrics, developed from xylene and ethylene, further reduced cotton usage, particularly for men’s suits.

1959: Spandex and Olefin. Sports clothes and bathing suits became the prime uses for spandex. Sportswear and thermal underwear were made from olefin.


Dirty Laundry

Much clothing is manufactured from synthetic chemicals. Even the fiber used

for “natural fiber clothing” is typically grown with synthetic chemicals, unless it is organic. Many of these chemicals are toxic to human health.

As a further challenge to health and safety, most of the cleaning agents used to

wash or dry clean clothes contain chemicals that can trigger adverse physical symptoms.

Consider that babies and young children often place clothing in their mouths and then chew and suck on the fabric. This is very dangerous, since the natural detoxification systems of children’s bodies aren’t fully developed.


Chemical Overload

An estimated 8,000 chemicals are employed to transform raw materials into clothes, according to The Ecologist magazine.

This process that involves bleaching, dyeing, scouring, sizing and finishing the fabrics.

Synthetic clothing now commonly contains such toxins as formaldehyde,

brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals like Teflon fibers to give trousers, skirts and other apparel ‘non-iron’ and ‘non-wrinkle’ durability.

Perfluorinated compounds, it should be pointed out, are classified as cancer-causing agents under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.


Staggering Statistics

Synthetic clothing became mainstream in the 1960s, which means its chemicals have been in contact with human skin for just a half-century.

In those same 50 years, according to the World Health Organization,

the industrialized parts of the world have experienced the following:

  • Up to one-third of married couples today experience fertility problems.
  • Respiratory diseases rose 160% in European and North American preschoolers.
  • Contact dermatitis and other skin ailments have become widespread.
  • One in two males and one in three females will develop cancer. 
  • Women now have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer.


Important Findings

Did you know that:

Medical evidence shows the longer a woman wears a bra, the greater her chance of developing breast problems, including the risk of breast cancer.

Synthetic fibers pose such a fire and burn hazard that the U.S. Marine Corps

prohibits its troops in Iraq from wearing synthetic clothing while off-base.

Medical studies have found that synthetic fibers help to induce muscle fatigue and muscle motor disorders—especially bad news for competitive athletes.

Studies have determined that synthetic fibers produce electrostatic discharges and, as a result, the wearing of tight synthetic clothing and undergarments is a

contributor to infertility in men.


A Return To Healthy Clothing

Our freedom to choose and wear natural clothing has narrowed over the time as the lower costs of synthetics crowding natural fibers out of the marketplace.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres. The need to revive and promote the sustainability of natural clothing industries worldwide came about because, as the U.N. group declared on its website, the natural fibers industry “has lost a lot of its market share due to the increased use of synthetic fibers.”

We retain the power to minimize risks to our health by taking simple precautions and practicing mindfulness about the clothing choices and buying options that we still have.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Can Bras Trigger Breast Cancer?

What if everything you thought you knew about bras and breast cancer turned out to be wrong?

Can you question your long-held assumptions and personal habits?

More importantly, can you make necessary lifestyle corrections that will protect and improve your health?


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Can Bras Trigger Breast Cancer? (cont’d 1)

Dr. Elizabeth R. Vaughan, CEO of Vaughan Medical Center, began to notice a relationship between breast lumps/cysts and the wearing of bras.

She personally treated over 100 women who, in her words, “chose to go bra free after yet another biopsy of a lump in their breasts or aspiration of a cyst.”

Over 3–6 months, their breast cysts/lumps got smaller and less tender and they developed no new lumps that we could detect.” Dr. Vaughan’s observation has since been replicated by other health care providers.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Can Bras Trigger Breast Cancer? (cont’d 2)

Breast cysts may be one of the flashing red warning signs for the onset of breast cancer.

In 1999 The Lancet examined 1,374 women with breast cysts and tracked them based on their incidence of breast cancer.

Premenopausal women with breast cysts had a nearly 6-fold increased risk of breast cancer compared to women that didn’t have breast cysts.

Here is how the authors of this study succinctly summarized their findings:

“Women with breast cysts are at an increased risk of breast cancer.”


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Can Bras Trigger Breast Cancer? (cont’d 3)

Most women wear bras that are much too tight for them and have worn them this way since they received their first “training bra” as a young girl.

According to The Johns Hopkins University Breast Center, “as many as 80% of women are actually wearing a bra that is the wrong size for them,”

a chronic condition which can produce health problems, particularly in the backs of women with large breasts.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Can Bras Trigger Breast Cancer? (cont’d 4)

With a plausible connection between breast cysts and breast cancer, plus Dr. Vaughan’s findings that bras cause or exacerbate the development of breast cysts, you don’t need to be the Sherlock Holmes of common sense to grasp that

bras, lymphatic drainage impairment, breast cysts, and breast cancer may be linked, like a chain reaction automobile wreck.

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Can Bras Trigger Breast Cancer? (cont’d 5)

Evidence showing a link between bras and breast cancer emerged in 1991 from a study of breast size and breast cancer risk by researchers in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Published in the European Journal of Cancer, this survey of thousands of women found that,

“Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared to bra users.”

This Harvard study finding about bra usage and a higher risk for breast cancer should have set off alarm bells within the health field and the clothing

industry. But, once again, as in The Emperor’s New Clothes, reflexive rejection and obstinate denial had triumphed over reality and common sense.

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

More Correlations Accumulate

Medical Anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer saw that when his wife removed her bra, both of her breasts were “outlined by dark red lines, marking the areas around her breasts and over her shoulders. The lines had been left by her bra.”

This observation came in the wake of his wife’s discovery in 1991 that she had a suspicious lump on her breast.

Could the constrictive nature of the brassiere have suppressed her lymphatic system—the internal network of blood vessels that flush toxins from the body?

Can toxins accumulate in breast tissue as a result of this constriction, and can that accumulation in turn trigger the growth of breast lumps and even the onset of breast cancer?

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

More Correlations Accumulate (cont’d 7)

To test their theory, Singer and his wife designed and carried out a

Bra and Breast Cancer Study of 4,700 women, ages 30 to 79 years, who were

interviewed in five U.S. cities—New York, Dallas, Phoenix, Denver and San Francisco. About half had been diagnosed with breast cancer, the other half had no breast cancer diagnosis.

The questions asked of each woman included:

Does your bra ever leave red marks on your skin or cause irritation? How long do you wear your bra each day on the average?

During what stages in your teenage and adult life did you not wear a bra?

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

More Correlations Accumulate (cont’d 8)

Striking differences emerged in the answers from the two groups:

1% of the cancer group wore their bras for less than 12 hours a day.

20% of the non-cancer group wore bras less than 12 hour daily.

18% of the cancer group wore their bras to bed.

3% of the non-cancer group wore their bras to bed.

4% of the cancer group had breastfed their children.

14% of the non-cancer group had breastfed their children.

Almost zero percent of breast cancer victims regularly went braless before their diagnosis, versus 5 percent of women in the non-cancer group who regularly went without bras.

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

More Correlations Accumulate (cont’d 9)

Singer’s calculations of the cancer risks from bras based on the study results:

There is a 6-fold greater incidence of breast cancer among women who wear a bra all day and to bed than among the general population.

Going braless results in a 21-fold reduction in breast cancer.

Breast feeding affords a 3.5-fold protection against breast cancer. One reason may be that breast feeding stimulates greater drainage within the lymphatic system of the breasts, helping to prevent the accumulation of toxins.

This observation is in line with other study findings that women who have never given birth have a higher incidence of breast cancer.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Other Medical Research Linking Bras and Disease (cont’d 10)

  1. In 2002, a Japanese study documented how skin pressure as a result of wearing bras affects the autonomic nervous system in a harmful way. “Our data indicate,” wrote the researchers in the Journal of Physiological

Anthropology and Applied Human Science, “that the higher clothing pressures

exerted by a conventional brassiere have a significant negative impact on the

autonomic nervous system activity, which is predominantly attributable to the

significant decrease in the parasympathetic as well as the thermoregulatory

sympathetic nerve activities. Since the autonomic nervous system activity plays an important role in modulating the internal environment in the human body, excess clothing pressures caused by constricting types of foundation garments on the body would consequently undermine women’s health.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Other Medical Research Linking Bras and Disease (cont’d 11)

  1. A series of studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association and elsewhere beginning in 1967 documented how bras manufactured with spandex fibers can cause skin problems in some bra wearers due to contact with the chemicals used in the production process that remain in the garments.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast cancer specialists are in general agreement that about 85 percent of the

200,000 women in the U.S. who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year

have no inherited genetic predisposition that might have been predicted based on their family history, which means that unhealthy lifestyle choices and the absorption of environmental pollutants account for the vast majority of cases.

Many health care professionals fail to take into account that human skin, the body’s largest organ, acts as a highly absorbent carrier for chemicals that come into direct contact with our body’s ‘miracle garment,’ as skin is often called.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins

Chemicals that can regularly come into contact with your skin and be absorbed by body tissues include the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, as well as chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic clothing.

When toxins enter the body by mouth and end up in the intestines, they are channeled by blood into the liver where detoxification naturally occurs.

When toxins are absorbed through the skin, however, they bypass the liver.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins (cont’d 14)

According to toxicology specialist Dr. Samuel Epstein, in his 2009 book, Toxic

Beauty, concerning toxins in cosmetics and personal care products, medical evidence exists that human skin is even more permeable than the nutrient-absorbing intestines, making skin the primary way that toxins invade the body.

“As difficult as it might be to believe,” wrote Dr. Epstein, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois and founder of the Cancer Prevention Coalition,

“mainstream manufacturers and regulatory authorities appear unaware

of the high permeability of skin, or else simply choose to ignore this as a critical concern.”

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins (cont’d 15)

The list of chemicals that could be accumulating in women’s breasts as a result of their skin exposure to everyday products and clothing is a lengthy one.

Let’s start with parabens preservatives, found in antiperspirants and deodorants, which have been incriminated as a probably cause of breast cancer.

A 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology examined concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors and found a high correlation. Dr. Epstein said, “Parabens’ presence in breast tissue on its own incriminates them as a possible cause of breast cancer, but they have also been shown to stimulate the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells in laboratory tests.”

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins (cont’d 16)

Triclosan is a second type of personal care product preservative that has been shown in laboratory tests to induce hormone disruptive effects that could trigger breast cancer.

Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants and other goods, but most alarming, it’s being added to synthetic clothing to prevent bacterial growth.

Surveys conducted by Greenpeace International and other environmental and consumer groups have detected triclosan in a high percentage of umbilical

cord blood samples, and in the breast milk of half of all women that the group’s tested, so we know this chemical bio-accumulates in the body easily and persists in the body over time.

 

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins (cont’d 17)

Detergents, called surfactants, appear in consumer products as cleansers, but also are used in the production processes for textiles and clothing.

One of these detergents, a nonoxynol known as 4-NP, has been lab tested in animals and found to trigger the development of breast cancer.

A 1994 study in Endocrinology, concluded: “Long-term exposure to 4-NP could leave individuals at a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer.”

This chemical and some other related surfactants have been banned or severely limited from use in the production of clothing by the government of Norway out of concern for the impact on human health, yet these chemicals are still commonly used in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world.

 

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins (cont’d 18)

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found evidence that aluminum chloride, used in high concentrations in most antiperspirants, is a hormone disruptive chemical that could trigger the onset of breast cancer.

Study author Philippa Darbre, Ph.D., expressed concern that aluminum chloride in antiperspirants is absorbed through the underarms and can accumulate in the adjoining breast tissue.

 

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Toxins (cont’d 19)

Professor Darbre also brought up the issue of chemical synergies from multipl

chemicals in personal care products acting together inside the body.

“Each of these agents on their own may not have a powerful effect,”

she wrote, “but we need to see what happens when a number of them act

together. It could be that this would have a significant effect on diseases like breast cancer.”

 

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

As women absorb the chemicals mentioned above from skin contact with consumer products and synthetic clothing, the toxins accumulate in breast tissue.

The toxins remain in the breast tissue because constrictive bra use prevents the breast’s lymphatic system from draining properly.

These “stuck toxins” could be one of the triggers for the development of breast cancer.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory 

There are three primary steps or stages to this theory:

  1. Toxins that can cause cancer, such as the ones in consumer products, are absorbed by the body. They then accumulate in fat tissue because fat tissue attracts toxins like a magnet. A woman’s breast tissue is mostly composed of fat cells, so toxins tend to be stored there.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory

There are three primary steps or stages to this theory:

  1. The body’s lymph system plays a role, along with the liver, in removing

toxins. If the lymph system fails to play its designated role effectively, toxins get stored in fat cells for too long, triggering the development of cancer cells.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory

There are three primary steps or stages to this theory:

  1. Because your body’s lymph system is reliant on passive forms of fluid propulsion like movement and exercise (unlike your heart, which drives blood through your vessels), the lymph system is sensitive to outside physical pressure. Since there are lymph pathways and lymph nodes in your armpits, under your breasts, and between your breasts, a tight-fitting bra can squeeze those areas and prevent proper drainage of lymph fluid that might ordinarily carry away toxins stored in fat cells.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 24)

On the website breastnotes.com, the relationship between the constrictions of breasts inside bras and the impairment of lymphatic drainage is addressed this way: “Unsupported breasts (of any size) will most likely move when the woman is walking or moving about. This is a natural movement, and there seems to be a reason for it.

We have breast massage articles from several experts that address the question of breast movement and its relationship to the natural flow of lymphatic fluids in the breasts. Since there is no ‘heart’ to move the lymphatic fluid, we must rely on body movement and muscular contractions to move the fluid.”

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 25)

In a December 2002 issue of the medical journal, Lymphology, researchers presented study findings showing how normal breast lymph drainage is an important predictor of whether a woman with breast cancer will survive.

If a breast cancer patient’s lymph vessels are obstructed, her chances of survival were rated as poor, whereas women with normal breast lymph drainage had a 30 percent higher survival rate.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 26)

In 2000, a study in The London Sunday Telegraph stated: “Wearing a bra exposes women to a ‘statistically significant’ risk of increased breast pain, cysts in the breast and might even be linked to the development of cancer.”

100 women who regularly suffered from breast pain or breast cysts were asked to go bra-free for three months. A significant number reported a reduction in their symptoms during this period.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 27)

The newspaper further reported that the scientists in this study

suspect problems are caused by bras suppressing the lymphatic system— the network of vessels that flushes toxic waste from the body. Professor Robert Mansell, a professor of surgery at the University Hospital of Wales, said the garments appear to be compressing the body at the outer upper part of the breast—the area where 80% of the lymph flows.”

This study was considered particularly important in Britain because an estimated 40% of all women in that country complain of breast pain and breast cysts.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 28)

Breastfeeding provides a form of insurance against breast cancer by helping to stimulate lymphatic system circulation within breast tissue. A breastfeeding advocacy group, La Leche League International, compiled a list of medical studies on its website (www.llli.org) supporting this point of view. Here are a few representative examples of those study findings:

About 1,432 new cases of breast cancer each year in the state of California are attributable to women having never breastfed their babies, and a simple lifestyle change of breastfeeding, or lengthening the duration of breastfeeding, could prevent many cases of breast cancer, according to this June 27, 2006 study article in the journal, BMC Cancer.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 29)

Breastfeeding provides a form of insurance against breast cancer by helping to stimulate lymphatic system circulation within breast tissue. A breastfeeding advocacy group, La Leche League International, compiled a list of medical studies on its website (www.llli.org) supporting this point of view. Here are a few representative examples of those study findings:

Longer duration breastfeeding could “reduce breast cancer risk significantly,” according to this German study of 706 breast cancer cases, published in February 2003 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 30)

Breastfeeding provides a form of insurance against breast cancer by helping to stimulate lymphatic system circulation within breast tissue. A breastfeeding advocacy group, La Leche League International, compiled a list of medical studies on its website (www.llli.org) supporting this point of view. Here are a few representative examples of those study findings:

The incidence of breast cancer among women in developed countries could be reduced by half, from 6.3 to 2.7 per 100 women, if breastfeeding today were as common as a century ago, and the longer a woman breastfeeds the more protection against breast cancer she is afforded, concluded a July 20, 2002 study published in The Lancet.

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Lymph System Evidence for the Theory (cont’d 31)

Breastfeeding provides a form of insurance against breast cancer by helping to stimulate lymphatic system circulation within breast tissue. A breastfeeding advocacy group, La Leche League International, compiled a list of medical studies on its website (www.llli.org) supporting this point of view. Here are a few representative examples of those study findings:

Finally, a 2001 article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, titled “Long-term Breastfeeding Lowers Mother’s Breast Cancer Risk,” determined that women who breastfed a child for more than two years had a 54 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who breastfed for less than six months. This protective effect was found to exist both before and after the onset of menopause.

 

 

 


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Breast Massage To Help You Remove Toxins

Lymphatic Drainage Massage (LDM) is a manual technique that you can perform on your own to help keep your breasts free of cysts, lumps and cancer.

While any form of massage to the breasts may assist lymphatic flow, LDM differs from regular therapeutic massage in several respects. The strokes of your hand on your breast should be light and superficial in LDM, should be performed slowly, and the strokes should manipulate the breasts in alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise directions for the maximum and most beneficial fluid release.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Purpose Do Bras Really Serve?

Most women who I come into contact with on a daily basis share my experience and opinion of bras—they are uncomfortable, they unnecessarily restrict movement and blood flow, they impede our skin’s ability to breathe and release toxins, and instinctively we know that bras and the bra industry are doing harm to women’s bodies. So why do women wear them?

Brassieres are a relatively recent development in the history of women’s clothing, having been patented in 1914 by Mary Phelps Jacobs to be an alternative to the corsets which had contorted and restricted women from the waist to chest ever since they first became popular during the 1500s in Europe.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Purpose Do Bras Really Serve? (cont’d 34)

Because bras lift and shape the breasts upward in sometimes provocative ways, our culture came to view them as a kind of sexual garment. Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s used movie icons Jayne Mansfield and other starlets

to further market bras as sex appeal enhancers. That public perception of sexuality contributed to bras becoming the wearer’s statement of style and fashion, irrespective of whether the under-garments served any real practical function.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Purpose Do Bras Really Serve? (cont’d 35)

Ligaments in a woman’s breasts hold the breasts up and in place. The more a woman wears a bra, the more those ligaments atrophy, getting weaker and smaller. The longer a woman goes bra-less, the more those ligaments strengthen over time. That is why some women experience soreness in their breasts when they go bra-less—the ligaments have weakened from lack of use. These are just basic facts of human physiology.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Purpose Do Bras Really Serve? (cont’d 36)

In The Complete Book of Breast Care, Dr. Niels H. Lauersen and Eileen Stukane point out: “Is a bra good or bad for your breasts? Neither! There is no medical reason to wear a bra, so the decision is yours, based on your own personal comfort and aesthetics. Whether you have always worn a bra or always gone braless, age and breastfeeding will naturally cause your breasts to sag.”

Dr. Christiane Northrup of the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, cautions bra wearers:

“Stop wearing an underwire bra. Too often this kind of bras cuts off circulation of both blood and lymph fluid around the breast, chest wall, and surrounding tissue.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Purpose Do Bras Really Serve? (cont’d 37)

To err on the side of caution concerning your breast health, it’s best that you don’t wear a bra at all.

But if you do wear one, limit your bra usage to only those absolutely necessary occasions. That might include when you exercise, going jogging in public, for example, or when you go to the gym.

Find a sports bra that gives you the breast support that you think you want and need without it being overly restrictive. And if you do wear a bra to work or during the day, never ever wear it to bed. The more time you spend wearing a bra, the higher your risk of developing serious problems with your breasts.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Seven Bra-Free Options For Breast Health

You can appear in public bra-free without having to feel self-conscious that you’re being stared at, or that you’re in violation of a workplace dress code. Here are seven simple and inexpensive options for bra-free breast health:

  1. Wear a sleeveless undershirt. Most often sold as men’s wear, these A-shirts are comfortable and come in a variety of thicknesses.
  2. Wear a camisole. Whether silk or cotton, these garments have adjustable clasps and give the appearance of a bra to observers.

3. Wear a vest. Either a men’s or women’s dress or casual vest can be worn over your blouse to hide the outline of your breasts.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Seven Bra-Free Options For Breast Health

  1. Wear a loosely fitted top. Depending on your breast size, loose tops can camouflage your breasts effectively.
  2. Wear a shirt with pockets. This overlay garment can allow the pockets to camouflage the outline of your breasts and nipples.
  3. Wear a bust free bra. These are two cups that cling inside to your outer garment’s fabric.

      7. Wear NuBra cups. Check out nubra.com for examples of adhesive cups that can cover your breasts to keep your nipples from                 showing through outer clothing.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Though he had never been known as a ‘high energy’ kind of guy, 58-year-old office cleaner Frank Clewer certainly made the sparks fly one day in September 2005, when he was job hunting in Warrnambool, a town in western Australia. Wearing several items of synthetic clothing, including a zip up nylon jacket, he walked into the lobby of a local business and a loud explosive sound erupted, like a large firecracker, when he walked on the carpet. Burn marks began to appear on the carpet where his footsteps had singed it.

Firemen were called. They evacuated the building and as a precaution, impounded Clewer’s nylon jacket. Fire Brigade official Henry Barton told Reuters news agency that Clewer’s clothes carried an electrical charge of up to 30,000 volts, a level he called, only half in jest, quite shocking.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 41)

Naturally occurring static electricity builds up during the course of the day when you move around in your synthetic fiber clothing and then you touch a car door, or a metal grocery cart, or even touch another person, and you get a jolting electric shock.

While these may seem like rare and relatively benign effects, a larger and more ominous health issue emerges from the scientific literature about electrostatic discharges caused by synthetic fiber clothing.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 42)

It’s no secret that male fertility, as measured by sperm counts, has been in decline every decade since World War II, perhaps not coincidentally, a period when synthetic clothing was also becoming a fixture in mainstream American wardrobes.

Average sperm counts worldwide dropped 50% in the last half of the 20th century, and according to the World Health Organization, up to 12 percent of all couples with women of childbearing age are now infertile.

Environmental effects, such as endocrine disrupting synthetic chemicals, are certainly one cause of the infertility epidemic, but there is evidence that we also have synthetic clothing to blame.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 43)

Polyester underpants being worn by a group of male dogs established the first scientific link between synthetic undergarments and infertility in human males.

This 1993 study published in the medical journal, Urological Research, described how researchers put loose fitting polyester underpants on 12 dogs over a period

of 24 months, during which time their semen quality, testicular temperature, hormones and testicular biopsies were examined.

A second group of 12 dogs wore loose fitting cotton underpants over the same period.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 44)

Wearing polyester produced a degeneration of the testes and “significant decreases” in the sperm counts for all dogs in the first group.

Those dogs outfitted with cotton undergarments, by contrast, experienced no such reproductive side effects.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 45)

What could account for the effect of polyester undergarments and pants on fertility?

The medical researchers in this study concluded: “it may be assumed that the electrostatic potentials generated by the polyester fabric play a role.”

In other words, polyester creates an electrostatic field around the crotch area of polyester wearers and that can affect their sperm quality over time.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 46)

Other medical authorities have estimated that the human scrotum may be

20 times more permeable than any other section of skin on the human body, yet little consideration seems to have been given by clothing manufacturers to this ‘Achilles heel’ pathway for toxins absorption.

Chemicals are routinely added to male infant and children’s underpants, and to athletic supporters and tight-fitting synthetic underwear worn by boys and men. All of these garments rub against the scrotum. Add to that the presence of heat and the constrictive nature of these clothing items, and the factors are in place for the creation of a synergistic interaction that may further contribute to male infertility.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetics Can Warp Male Sexuality (cont’d 47)

Take an inventory of your wardrobe. Start with the labels to determine what percentage of your clothing is synthetic. This will become your risk to reward ratio. The more synthetic your wardrobe turns out to be, the greater risks you will be taking of absorbing enough toxic chemicals to affect your health.

In this section you will learn what fabrics and chemicals to watch for when you shop and select clothing, and how to identify deceptive synthetic fabrics. Labels don’t always tell the true story, so you may need to use the series of tests described later, including a safe burn test, to determine whether a fabric is a particular type of synthetic containing chemicals that you should want to avoid.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

The Dangers of Formaldehyde

This highly toxic chemical is effective as a permanent press wrinkle-proofing agent because it’s a simple molecule which can connect individual fibers and enable them to hold their shape after repeated cleanings.

Other widespread uses of formaldehyde in fabrics, which make it a difficult

chemical to avoid, include:

  • Anti-cling, anti-static, and anti-shrink finishes to clothing
  • Waterproof finishes
  • Perspiration proof finishes
  • Moth proof and mildew resistant finishes
  • Stiffening for lightweight nylon knits
  • Chlorine-resistant finishes
  • Dyes and printing inks (formaldehyde helps to prevent colors from running by binding the dyes to fabric fibers)

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

The Dangers of Formaldehyde (cont’d 49)

Laboratory testing of animals has documented how formaldehyde acts as a ‘frank’ carcinogen capable of causing cancer in humans.

It also can cause a range of other health problems, such as skin and lung irritation, and contact dermatitis.

In 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that

formaldehyde was a probable cause of nasopharyngeal cancer in humans,

and other evidence linked exposure to it to nasal cavity and paranasal cavity cancer, while still other studies provided evidence that it might cause leukemia.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Formaldehyde Levels Are Health Hazards?

When it comes to the presence of formaldehyde in clothing, no country in the world bans its use in textiles, but most governments regulate its levels:

China: 20 ppm (parts per million) limit in textiles for infants. 75 ppm for textiles in direct skin contact (non-infant.)

Japan: For infants, formaldehyde levels must not be detectable. 75 ppm for textiles in direct skin contact (non-infant.)

Netherlands: Clothing must not contain more than 120 ppm after washing.

United States: Manufacturers have only ‘voluntary’ standards. No levels or limits in textiles are mandated by law or regulations.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Formaldehyde Levels Are Health Hazards? (cont’d 51)

In 1999, a team of Japanese scientists took 27 non-iron shirts and measured the quantity of free formaldehyde in each, before and after washing and drying, every week for six months.

About one-third of these shirts contained between 75 parts per million and 202 ppm of free formaldehyde before washing. After six months, the quantity

of free formaldehyde in 12 of the shirts still exceeded 75 ppm, which meant that

bound formaldehyde in the fabric had continued leeching out over time.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Formaldehyde Levels Are Health Hazards? (cont’d 52)

A person wearing one of those shirts would have been absorbing a constant stream of formaldehyde molecules for six months.

Had the experiment go on longer, it might have found the exposure extended to a year and beyond.

The research team, describing their study results in the Journal of Health Science, concluded that “free formaldehyde sometimes increases once again with time by decomposition of (formaldehyde) resin.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Formaldehyde Levels Are Health Hazards? (cont’d 53)

Here is some of what health experts know about the effects of low levels of formaldehyde, especially on children.

In the book, Formaldehyde on Trial, by Lloyd Tataryn, it was observed that

“the first adverse health symptoms associated with formaldehyde exposure— burning and tearing of the eyes, general irritation of the upper respiratory tract—usually appear at concentrations beginning at 0.01 parts per million.

Concentrations of 0.8–1.0 ppm can produce bronchitis and asthma. Exposures of 10–20 ppm can produce severe coughing, a feeling of pressure in the head, headaches and heart palpitations; exposure of 50-100 ppm can cause serious lung damage and death.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Formaldehyde in Short

Both ‘free’ and ‘bound’ levels of formaldehyde in garments should be measured together to establish standards of health and safety.

Clothing imported from China and other newly industrialized countries contains higher levels of formaldehyde than previously.

We also absorb formaldehyde from cosmetics and other personal care products that we also put on our skin.

Though clothing manufacturers contend that low levels of formaldehyde exposure from their garments will have no health effects, these reassurances fail to take into account the cumulative long term effect from multiple sources.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Even Cotton Harbors Chemical Hazards

Most consumers assume that if an item of clothing is labeled as ‘cotton’ or even as ‘natural,’ it’s automatically safe. But not all cotton is created equal.

Non-organic cotton contains residues of herbicides and pesticides used in the growing process.

There are many reasons for choosing organic cotton over non-organic cotton varieties, and not just health reasons.

You lessen the impact on the environment by choosing organic brands of clothing.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed?

It seemed like a good idea at the time—make children’s sleepwear self-extinguishing if the clothing caught on fire. What could possibly be wrongheaded about such a worthy goal of protecting our children?

After the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ruled in 1971 that children’s sleepwear must be self-extinguishing when exposed to heat or flames, clothing manufacturers began adding a fire retardant chemical called brominated Tris to children’s clothing fabrics. Amounts of about five percent of fabric weight were added to each piece of sleepwear to make it flame resistant.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 57)

Odds are that if you, or your child, was born or grew up during the 1970s, you were exposed to brominated Tris. Fibers used in children’s sleepwear that were treated with the chemical included acetate, triacetate, and polyester. The CPSC estimated that 120 million sleepwear garments were manufactured containing this flame retardant and we can assume, based on cultural practices of that time, that many of those garments were passed down within families to each newborn child until the clothing wore out, which means human skin was in contact with the retardant chemical well into the 1980s.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 58)

Chemists Arlene Blum and Bruce Ames at the University of California, Berkeley, tested the brominated Tris flame retardant and discovered that it was a human carcinogen (cancer causing) and published their findings in a 1977 issue of the journal Science.

Subsequently, Blum and Ames did a second study, also published in Science, which revealed an equally alarming discovery—children were absorbing the flame retardant.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 59)

Morning urine samples were taken from ten children who wore either pajamas newly treated with Tris, or older pajamas treated with Tris but washed numerous times.

Most of the pajamas were made of polyester.

Tris residue was found in the urine of every child and it had to have come from absorbing the chemical by contact with the pajamas because Tris isn’t normally found in nature or in human bodies.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 60)

The idea that repeated washings of the clothes would remove the Tris and pose less of a health hazard to wearers was directly contradicted by this study.

A separate experiment was cited in which the total Tris in a fabric only decreased from 5.8 percent to 5.1 percent of weight after more than 50 washings of the fabric.

“Tris is likely to continue diffusing from the inside of the fiber to the outside as the garment is being worn leading to continuing availability of the chemical for absorption through the skin or by mouth,” concluded Blum and co-author Ames. “Repeatedly washed Tris sleepwear still contains large amounts of the chemical and is likely to pose a continuing hazard.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 61)

Here is how the two chemists described the “grave threat to human health” that Tris posed to children:

brominated Tris is a mutagen and causes cancer and sterility in animals.

Mutagen means that it can cause inheritable mutations in humans, damaging the DNA.

“Potential adverse reproductive effects from brominated Tris are also a concern. This chemical causes testicular atrophy and sterility.”

Of particular concern for male children, Tris can be absorbed through the scrotum because it’s “about 20 times more permeable to chemicals than is other skin.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 62)

How much of a problem do fire hazards really pose to children’s clothing? Can flame retardants in sleepwear even be justified any more?

The answer, as provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Burn Center Reporting System, may surprise you. Each year, on average, only about 36 cases of serious injuries from children’s sleepwear catching fire are reported throughout the U.S.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Much Flame Retardant Have You Absorbed? (cont’d 63)

Since these 36 cases usually involve sleepwear treated with fire retardants, the question becomes one of public health: is the risk of contaminating millions of children with toxic fire retardants and endangering their health worth protecting the 36 children each year who benefit from wearing the chemical? 

Ultimately, only parents acting on their own can answer those questions and make that decision by voting with their pocketbooks as to whether they will accept or reject clothing that contains health question marks.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Buy Non-Toxic Children’s Sleepwear

Labels that say “wear snug fitting” must be attached to any sleepwear that doesn’t contain flame retardants, which is a requirement that went into effect June 28, 2000 for all cotton or cotton blends of snug-fitting clothing used by children. Loose-fitting T-shirts and other loose-fitting clothing made of cotton or cotton blends, according to the CPSC, shouldn’t be used for sleeping because “these garments can catch fire easily, burn rapidly, and are associated with nearly 300 emergency-room-treated burn injuries to children each year.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Buy Non-Toxic Children’s Sleepwear (cont’d 65)

What exactly is considered children’s sleepwear by the CPSC? The agency identifies the garments as any article of clothing, such as pajamas, a nightgown, robe or lounge wear, that is sized for kids above nine months of age and up to size 14, and the garment is worn primarily for sleeping. Diapers and

underwear aren’t considered sleepwear under this definition.

Numerous clothing companies now offer for sale CPSC-approved pajamas and other sleepwear without flame retardants. Two of the more prominent manufacturers are LL Bean (www.llbean.com) and Land’s End (www.landsend.com).

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Beware of Toxins in School Clothes

Children are particularly vulnerable to chemical sensitivities triggered by the clothing they wear, especially if they are required to wear uniforms during the school year.

Many school uniforms are coated with a family of chemicals called PFCs that give fabrics stain resistance and the ‘non-iron’ wrinkle resistance often found in school trousers and skirts. These perfluorinated compounds have been classified as probable cancer-causative agents by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Beware of Toxins in School Clothes (cont’d 67)

As clothes containing these chemicals become worn with repeated washings and wear, the chemicals leech from the fabric and become particles that can be absorbed or inhaled by children.

“Without knowing it, parents are exposing their children to toxic chemicals in clothing that could have serious future consequences for their health and the environment,” declared Dr. Richard Dixon, head of the environmental group

WWF Scotland, in a 2004 media alert. “Children are usually more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals than adults, so the presence of these substances in school clothing is particularly alarming.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Beware of Toxins in School Clothes (cont’d 68)

Studies done by the Environmental Working Group in the U.S. have detected PFOA, one of the common Teflon-like chemicals, in the blood of 96 percent of all Americans tested.

Another study by the same organization in 2004, using umbilical cord blood donated by U.S. hospitals, found the eight types of perfluorochemicals in nearly all of the samples, demonstrating that mothers absorb the chemicals during every day activities and then transfer the toxins directly into their fetuses.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Beware of Toxins in School Clothes (cont’d 69)

The long term health consequences of this contamination in the unborn

remains in the realm of speculation for two reasons:

  1. These contaminants are now so prevalent in humans and wildlife that they can’t be separated from the presence of other toxic chemicals being absorbed simultaneously
  2. These chemicals were only introduced into clothing and other consumer products within the past few decades, so we don’t have much evidence generated by a lifetime of use.

But we can feel assured that PFC’s absorbed from clothing and other sources can’t be healthy for children or the rest of us.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’

Each and every one of us carries around a ‘body burden’ of synthetic chemicals that we have absorbed from our foods, medicines, and consumer products.

These chemicals, once absorbed through our skin or lungs or by digestion, take up residence in our body fat and our body organs.

Over time, as the toxins from multiple sources accumulate, we begin to experience the health consequences in the form of a weakened immune system and resultant illness and disease.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’ (cont’d 71)

Blood testing studies done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2001, involving more than 10,000 people in the U.S. of all ages and backgrounds, found that every American carries a ‘body burden’ of at least 700 or more synthetic chemicals.

These are conservative estimates because the CDC has tested humans for only a few thousand of the more than 85,000 chemicals now in commercial use in the U.S., based on an inventory kept by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’ (cont’d 72)

In a study by an organization called the Environmental Working Group, two testing laboratories in 2004 measured the chemical toxins in umbilical-cord blood taken from U.S. hospitals.

On average about 200 synthetic chemicals were detected in the umbilical cord samples. Both flame retardants and pesticides were among the chemical residues found, as well as the Teflon chemical called PFOA, all of which may appear on or in new clothing.

Most of the toxins that were discovered have been shown in medical studies to be possible or probable causes of birth defects, developmental disorders, nervous system disorders, and cancer.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’ (cont’d 73)

Chemicals from clothing alone doesn’t account for this body burden of toxins.

Much of the burden comes from the chemical ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products simply because those chemicals are applied directly to the skin on a daily basis.

But chemicals from synthetic clothing do contribute to the body burden and may even be one of the ‘tipping points’ for triggering immune system collapse and the onset of illness and disease.

The analogy is often given of our bodies being like a barrel that slowly fills with the chemicals that are absorbed until it finally overflows.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’ (cont’d 74)

Manufacturers of consumer products try to reassure us that tiny levels of chemicals in their products don’t do any harm to our health in either the short term or the long term of our lives.

Even if that were true, it’s a rationale that ignores several discomfiting facts that mainstream toxicologists are finally beginning to acknowledge and take into account.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’ (cont’d 75)

One is the health impact of bio-accumulation within the human body.

We know that many of the toxins persist in our bodies and in the environment.

The toxins designed to be virtually immortal and don’t break down easily into less harmful substances. Once in human body fat, these chemicals accumulate over a lifetime with a variety of potential effects on health.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’ (cont’d 76)

A second and even more unpredictable reality is that many of these synthetic chemicals combine with each other to create synergies. These are processes in which the health effect of two or more chemicals acting together is much more powerful than any one of the chemicals can have on its own.

This is mostly uncharted research territory for medical science, toxicologists, and product manufacturers simply because the costs are too prohibitive to create the technology necessary to do the wide range of testing that takes into account all of the billions of different chemical synergy combinations.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Contact Dermatitis Is Spreading

Every product sold on the market that touches our skin is a test of our

sensitivity because the chemical ingredients in the product are usually untested for their impact on human health before marketing occurs, which makes us all guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment.

When these experiments go awry, it’s sometimes the most vulnerable among us—infants—who become the first health statistics.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Do You Suffer From Chemical Sensitivity?

Upon further investigation, Dr. Randolph concluded that his patients simply couldn’t adapt to these newly formulated chemicals. The analogy he thought of to account for this inability to adapt likened the human immune system to a barrel. As the body continually absorbs chemicals, eventually that barrel overflows and physical symptoms appear as a reaction to the chemical overload. The toxins have accumulated until they overwhelm the body’s mechanisms for eliminating them.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Why Contact Dermatitis Is More Common

As synthetic clothing dyes and garment finishes became more common and widespread on store shelves, so did the variety of reported health problems and the chemical sensitivities experienced by ever greater numbers of people of all ages.

Skin rashes, nausea, fatigue, burning, itching, headaches, difficulty breathing, these are just a few of the symptoms associated with chemical clothing sensitivity. Children have their own additional list of symptoms that include flushed cheeks, hyperactivity, and even learning and behavioral problems.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Why Contact Dermatitis Is More Common (cont’d 80)

Garment finishes applied to new clothing comprise a long list and can usually be identified by their function. If your clothing is described as flame retardant or resistant, stain resistant, wrinkle free, anti-static, odor-resistant, permanent press, non-shrink, anti-fungal or anti-bacterial, you can be pretty sure that synthetic chemicals were either directly applied to the fabric, or bonded into the fabric, and the residue can induce allergic reactions in some people.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Why Contact Dermatitis Is More Common (cont’d 81)

Clothing dyes present an even more complex challenge to human health. It’s not just the vast array of chemical dye colors that can trigger reactions, it’s the chemicals used in the dyeing process that sometimes linger, hidden in clothing fabrics and absorbed by the skin. Some of the toxins used to bond dye colors to fabric include formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), Dioxin (a carcinogen and hormone disrupter), and metals like chrome and copper.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

It took the burning disfigurement of numerous unfortunate U.S. Marines serving in Iraq to finally underscore the disturbing truth of how truly dangerous the wearing of synthetic fabrics can be.

Synthetic clothing made of polyester, acrylic, and nylon melts in the presence of high heat and fuses the materials to human skin.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

A ‘Burning’ Question for the U.S. Military (cont’d 83)

In response to the increasing number of severe burns associated with synthetic clothing, the commanding general of the Marines in Iraq ordered his troops in 2006 to stop wearing the synthetic fabrics any time they went off-base.

This ban extended to product lines made by Under Armour, CoolMax, and Nike, and included synthetic T-shirts, pants, boxer shorts, panties and socks, all commonly sold in military clothing stores.

A year earlier, a similar ban on synthetic clothing went into effect for military personnel working in the aviation field, fuel tank transport, and other hazardous duties where flash fires could melt chemical-laden fabrics.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetic Fibers Fatigue Your Muscles

Medical studies have shown how there is a huge difference between natural fibers and synthetic fibers in the way they affect performance by muscles of the human body.

This will come as news to high performance athletes, where it could make the difference between winning and losing, and it will surprise ordinary consumers who wear synthetics and wonder why they feel fatigue every day.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetic Fibers Fatigue Your Muscles (cont’d 85)

In a 2001 study, physiologists compared muscle function in the forearms of test subjects while they wore either natural or synthetic fiber clothing and published their findings in the journal, Fibres & Textiles in Eastern Europe.

Twelve male volunteers, aged 24 to 27 years, all of whom were in good health, wore long sleeve shirts made of linen for about five hours, and then wore similar shirts made of polyester for another five hours.

Their forearm muscles were monitored with electrodes that measured skin temperature and the conduction velocity of motor fibers in the muscle. This was done as they worked at computers, read a book, or just conversed with each other.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Synthetic Fibers Fatigue Your Muscles (cont’d 86)

No negative changes in muscle functioning were observed when the test subjects wore the natural linen fabric shirts.

The synthetic fabric created an electrostatic field emission over the surface of the muscle, which the natural fabric didn’t create.

A second effect in the synthetic but not the natural was that “covering the surface of the forearm caused the temperature to increase significantly in the subjects dressed in the synthetic clothing.” Conduction velocities in the motor fibers within the nerve branches of the muscle underwent a lower amplitude when the test subjects wore the synthetic shirts.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Don’t Forget Your Shoes!

No matter what your shoes are made of, they cover your feet, so they count as a form of clothing apparel. Like other articles of clothing, shoes come manufactured with many of the chemicals that make clothing so problematic to health.

Shoes made in part or whole from petrochemicals generate many of the same health and environmental hazards as synthetic clothing. One clear impact on ecosystems is that shoes don’t easily (if at all) biodegrade once discarded in landfills.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Don’t Forget Your Shoes!

Consider the effects of just one chemical used in the production of one type of shoe—those made of leather. Up until the mid to late 20th century, vegetable chemicals were used to tan leather to prepare it to be made into shoes.

Chromium tanning replaced vegetable tanning because manufacturers found it to be a cheaper and faster process.

Chromium can be a carcinogen and because most shoes today are made in developing countries with almost nonexistent safety and environmental rules, chromium contamination of people and ecosystems are disturbingly common.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How Synthetic Is Your Wardrobe?

Most people take for granted and never give a passing thought to how their clothes are maintained, nor do they question whether the products and cleaning practices used each week create problems for their own health, much less planetary health.

How we choose and care for our clothes mirrors the broader issues of how we care for our bodies and for the environment.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Toxins Are You Washing Your Clothes In?

Finding out what chemicals are really in your laundry detergent and what effect they may be having on you and the environment requires some detective work. Detergent manufacturers aren’t mandated by law to list their ingredients on labels, which is an exemption granted them under trade secrecy laws to protect their formulations from competitors. What information you will find on product labels—put there to give consumers a false sense of education and safety assurance—commonly use generic language such as, “Ingredients include surfactants.”

Surfactant is just another term for detergents and there are a wide variety of these cleansers in use.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Toxins Are You Washing Your Clothes In? (cont’d 91)

Most major manufacturers of detergents have phased out of their products the use of phosphates, which remove hard water minerals to increase product effectiveness.

As an alternative to the use of phosphates, detergent companies created numerous synthetic compounds that are alleged to exact an even greater toll on both human health and the environment. Research conducted by various environmental groups, and by Dr. Samuel Epstein, an eminent toxicologist and founder of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, identified some of the new surfactants in laundry soap and the health consequences of exposure to these chemicals.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Toxins Are You Washing Your Clothes In? (cont’d 92)

Diethanolamine and Triethanolamine: A synthetic surfactants designed to neutralize acids. They are carcinogens or can react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a family of carcinogens. Slow to biodegrade, they persist in the environment. They are also in mainstream shampoos and conditioners.

EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tera-acetate): Used to reduce water hardness, these compounds can disrupt the hormones of humans and wildlife. Once released into the environment, they don’t biodegrade easily and can dissolve toxic heavy metals trapped in underwater sediments so these toxins can re-enter the food chain. EDTA also appears in mainstream shampoos and other products as a ‘penetration enhancer,’ allowing others chemicals to penetrate more deeply.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Toxins Are You Washing Your Clothes In? (cont’d 93)

PEG (polyethylene glycol): This is made from ethylene oxide, a potent carcinogen, and once in the environment, PEG is slow to biodegrade, with unknown consequences for wildlife. PEG is also commonly found in shampoos and conditioners.

Quaternium 15: This surfactant and disinfectant releases formaldehyde, a potent carcinogen, and it’s also an allergen that is often contaminated with DEA, still another carcinogen. This compound can also be typically found as a preservative in skin lotions, shampoos, and other products.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Toxins Are You Washing Your Clothes In? (cont’d 94)

An analysis of laundry wastewater, both industrial and from public laundromats, performed a few years ago by the Environmental Working Group, detected a range of hormone-disrupting contaminants being released. Phthalates, used to stabilize fragrances, are hormone disruptive chemicals commonly added to detergents and other cleaning products.

Phthalates were detected in wastewater from four of the four laundries tested. This family of chemicals has been measured as accumulating swiftly in the body tissues and blood of human beings, a finding that so alarmed the European Union that in 2005 it banned the use of most phthalates in products sold in Europe.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What Toxins Are You Washing Your Clothes In? (cont’d 95)

Another chemical found in the laundry wastewater by the Environmental Working Group was triclosan, added as an antibacterial agent in detergents, and a chemical known to be toxic to liver functioning.

Triclosan persists in both human bodies and the environment, bio-accumulating up the food chain. It has also been documented to play a role in reducing human resistance to antibiotics, which has helped stimulate the development of ‘super bug’ bacteria.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Fabric Softeners

Chemical fabric softeners may seem like a miracle product for keeping clothing

materials comfortable for daily wear, but the downside of using these products is that you’re allowing your skin and lungs to come into contact with some nasty toxins that just ‘keep on giving.

Still another survey of U.S. households done by Procter & Gamble in 2006 (whose results were shared with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) found that 71% use some form of fabric softener, with the most common forms for home laundering being liquid softeners (purchased by 42% of U.S. households) and dryer-added sheet softeners (used by 49% of households.)

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Fabric Softeners (cont’d 97)

As you probably know, dryer sheet softeners have anti-static properties. Many households were found to be using both forms of softeners, with a rinse cycle softener followed by a dryer sheet softener for the same laundry load.

These chemicals include toxins like chloroform, benzyl acetate, pentane, and compounds which release formaldehyde. Whether used in liquid form or dryer sheets, the softeners leave chemical residues in your clothing by design that ‘keep on giving off’ molecules to you and the environment. You breathe in the chemical fumes, especially after the treated clothes are heated in dryers, and you absorb some of the residue through your skin when wearing the treated clothes.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Fabric Softeners (cont’d 98)

Alison Petten, a Canadian registered nurse who works with the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia, has studied the health impacts of fabric softeners and their ingredients. “The ingredients in fabric softeners can irritate skin and cause asthma-like symptoms. I have seen marked improvements in clients with psoriasis, eczema, asthma and migraines when they stopped using chemical fabric softeners. Others have told me that their irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis improved when they cut chemical fabric softeners out of their laundry routine. A lot of people don’t make the connection that the chemicals which we breathe, and those we absorb through the skin, get into the bloodstream and can affect every organ and system in the body.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Fabric Softeners (cont’d 99)

The role of chemical synergies in triggering health problems isn’t understood by most ordinary consumers, or by many toxicologists and physicians, for that matter. When two or more chemicals combine in a product, or in the human body, they can sometimes produce toxic effects much more powerful than any one chemical can generate on its own.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Avoid Fragrance Allergens

Product ingredient labels also usually don’t identify the fragrance chemicals used to scent detergents because no law in the U.S. requires them to be revealed on labels. Fragrances in mainstream conventional detergents are made from petroleum, which means they don’t biodegrade easily in the environment, can be toxic to fish and mammals, and can cause allergies and irritation to humans. Toluene, a common chemical in fragrances, is known to cause reproductive abnormalities and cancer in lab animals.

European Union standards for fragrance allergens in detergents and other products require clear product labeling so that fragrance-sensitive consumers can make informed choices about the products they purchase.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

The Dry Cleaning Chemical You Should Avoid

Perchloroethylene, or Perc for short, is the chemical solvent used by three-fourths of dry cleaning businesses in the U.S.

While Perc is considered to be an efficient cleaning agent for clothing, it’s also highly toxic and responsible for a wide range of well documented harmful effects on human health. The International Association for Research on Cancer calls Perc a probable carcinogen, based on animal testing, and research studies going back three decades, in Environmental Health Perspectives and other medical science journals, have outlined Perc’s many health effects when it is inhaled or comes into contact with skin.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

The Dry Cleaning Chemical You Should Avoid (cont’d 102)

Environmental Health Professor Helen Suh MacIntosh of Harvard University has described how the studies found Perc exposure increases a person’s risk of bladder, esophageal, and cervical cancer, along with eye, nose, throat and skin irritations, and even reduced fertility. She writes that, “low levels of perchloroethylene can be present in your indoor air, as any perchloroethylene that was not removed in the dry cleaning process will be on your clothes that you bring home. Once at home, the perchloroethylene will leave your clothes and go into the air.”

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

The Dry Cleaning Chemical You Should Avoid (cont’d 103)

Chemical manufacturers and the dry cleaning industry claim that the tiny amounts of Perc you may absorb through your lungs or skin from contact with dry cleaned clothes represents a negligible threat to human health, and little danger to the environment.

These claims weren’t reassuring to regulators and health authorities in the state of California, which banned the use of Perc in its 3,400 dry cleaning businesses by the end of 2010, a move made after investigators found that the solvent had contaminated at least one in every ten of the state’s water wells.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

The Dry Cleaning Chemical You Should Avoid (cont’d 104)

This finding about Perc contamination of water wells serves to underscore an uncomfortable fact about Perc—once released from clothing or from dry cleaning machinery, it persists in ecosystems and once absorbed by the human body, persists in body fat and organs.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Toxic Chemical ‘Body Burden’

We need to take responsibility for our personal health and safety, as well as for the health of the people in our lives who depend on us for guidance and the exercise of good judgment. In the following section you will find positive advice about how to make healthy buying decisions that will empower you personally while helping to protect the environment.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Why Natural Fibers Are Healthier For You

Choosing healthier natural fibers is cheaper than synthetic options for a variety of reasons. Ten advantages or reasons for choosing natural fibers will detail all of the categories of advantages, including comfort, clothing item maintenance, etc. Some myths about natural fabrics will be exploded here, such as the one championed by synthetics manufacturers that synthetics are warmer and more moisture resistant than wool. Natural fibers cannot be duplicated in chemical laboratories and this section will explain why.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Most Common Options For ‘Wearing Nature’

COTTON—Of 39 species that grow worldwide, only four species of cotton have been domesticated, the most common today being G. hirsutum, which was first grown in Central America by tribal societies. Cotton fragments dated as being used as far back as 5000 B.C. have turned up in archaeological digs in Pakistan and Mexico. It remains the “King” of textiles. Over the past decade the popularity of organic cotton (grown without pesticides) has increased, but still accounts for less than one percent of worldwide cotton production.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Most Common Options For ‘Wearing Nature’ (cont’d 108)

FLAX—This fiber plant grows to a height of four feet and is considered one of nature’s strongest fibers. Archaeologists have found evidence of its use in clothing going back to prehistoric times in the Near East. Later cultivation occurred in ancient Egypt, Classical Green, and Imperial Rome. The plant is best known as the source of linen, which was used in its finest form to wrap the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Most Common Options For ‘Wearing Nature’ (cont’d 109)

HEMP—Processed like flax, the hemp plant is versatile and hardy and grows without any need for fungicides, herbicides or pesticides because it is naturally insect-resistant. It was the original fabric for Levi jeans before the company made a switch to cotton. Hemp cloth has made a comeback in t-shirts and other apparel over the past decade, especially in the U.S. among young people, though half of the world’s hemp supply is grown in China. Its fibers are said to be four times stronger than cotton. In contrast to another variety of hemp known as marijuana, this species of hemp has no psychoactive substance properties.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Most Common Options For ‘Wearing Nature’ (cont’d 110)

SILK—Known as the “Queen of Fabrics,” silk was first developed in ancient China where for generations only the royalty was allowed to wear it. It is produced by the larvae of a moth species which feeds on the leaves of the white mulberry tree. For about 2,000 years the Chinese kept the methods used in collecting and weaving silk a closely guarded secret, until two priests smuggled some silkworm eggs to Constantinople in about 555 A.D. Today’s common silkworm doesn’t exist in the wild, only in domesticated silk farms. Nearly a dozen types of silk fabrics have emerged over the centuries, including brocade, chiffon, damask, and velvet. The use of synthetic dyes is the major concern in wearing silk clothing.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Your Most Common Options For ‘Wearing Nature’ (cont’d 111)

WOOL—Sheep have provided humans with warm clothing for thousands of years, dating back to the first domestication of animals. Today most commercially grown wool is contaminated with chemicals, such as pesticides used to kill parasites on the sheep. Organic wool is becoming more common, with the state of New Mexico providing about 80 percent of U.S. certified organic wool production.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Less Common Natural Clothing Options

ALPACA—Found mainly in the Andes mountains of South America, this member of the camelid family has two distinct types of hair. Huacayo alpacas produce short, dense, soft fibers; Suri alpacas produce straight silk-like hairs. Both are used to make luxury fabrics.

ANGORA—China produces most of the world’s angora rabbit wool, followed by Argentina and Chile. It is a soft and fine fiber that is removed from the rabbit by shearing or combing every three months. It is used in high quality knit wear.

CAMEL—Mongolia produces the highest quality camel hair fibers that come in two types: a coarse outer hair, and a fine inner down.

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Less Common Natural Clothing Options (cont’d 113)

CASHMERE—China is the world’s largest producer of raw cashmere shorn from the Kashmir goat. The hair fibers have strong insulation qualities but are soft to the touch. Most cashmere garments are sold in Europe, the U.S. and Japan.

MOHAIR—The Angora goat is indigenous to Turkey and its white, fine and silky fibers is known for providing warmth in the winter, yet is so versatile that it is also a cool fabric for the humidity of summer. The fiber is found in knitting yarn and is often combined with wool.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Less Common Natural Clothing Options (cont’d 114)

RAMIE—This flowering plant is native to East Asia and is considered one of the strongest natural fibers with a silky luster. Its bark has been used for thousands of years in thread and twine and is spun into a grass cloth sometimes called ‘Chinese linen.’ It is often blended with wool or cotton.

SALUYOT—This is a relatively new entrant on the world’s natural textile stage. Saluyot and water hyacinth plants grow everywhere in the Philippines, where its fibers are made into yarn for apparel. It is valued for the fineness of its fibers and its tensile strength. The Philippines grow about 30 useful natural fiber crops that include abaca, ramie, coconut coir, banana and other leaf and plant fibers.

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What Makes Organic Cotton Superior

Until the 20th century the world’s cotton production was entirely natural and organic, but by the end of that century, as synthetic chemicals came to dominate products and the marketplace, cotton crops accounted for about 10 percent of all the planet’s pesticide usage and around 25 percent of all insecticides used.

The Organic Trade Association estimates a single non-organic cotton t-shirt will be the product of one-third a pound of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Organic cotton has made a comeback among producers and consumers due to widening concerns about human health and on the environment.

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What Makes Organic Cotton Superior (cont’d 116)

Seed Preparation: Organic cotton farming uses seeds untreated by fungicides and insecticides and never uses genetically modified seeds; none of which is true with conventional cotton farming.

Soil & Water Impacts: Organic cotton relies on crop rotation and water retention in the soil by adding organic matter; whereas, by contrast, conventional cotton farming requires intensive irrigation to go with the application of synthetic fertilizers to the soil.

Weed Control: Cultivation and hand removal techniques control weeds in organic farming; conventional growers apply herbicides to thwart weed germination and more herbicides are applied to kill weeds that survive.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Hemp Makes Another Clothing Comeback

Even a casual review of hemp’s history as a fabric reveals it to be one of the most versatile and persistent of fiber crops, one that was banned in the U.S. during the 20th Century because of an unfair association with its psychoactive cousin, but has made a comeback in the marketplace thanks to the agricultural policies of more enlightened countries.

Hemp fabrics have been in use among diverse cultures throughout the world

for thousands of years. Its one of the few plants whose roots, stalks, leaf, flower and seeds can all be used for products such as food, medicine, writing paper, and lamp oil, among its hundreds of uses. For at least 2,000 years most of the sailcloth and rigging lines used by sea-going vessels came from hemp.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Hemp Makes Another Clothing Comeback (cont’d 118)

One of the first large scale uses of hemp for clothing in the U.S. came during the Revolutionary War of 1776, when General George Washington’s army wore uniforms made from the plant, which was a crop that Washington also grew on his plantation, as did Thomas Jefferson. The first official flag of the 13 states that flew over the U.S. Capitol was made of hemp fabric, as was the paper on Jefferson and others wrote the first and second drafts of the Declaration of Independence.

Canada, along with China, have become two of the biggest suppliers to the U.S. market Now hemp can be purchased in a wide variety of wearing apparel options—shoes, diapers, pants, shirts, and every other kind of garment.

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Why is Hemp Ideal for the Production of Clothes?

The plant requires little fertilizer, can be grown just about anywhere, and it doesn’t need pesticides because it is naturally pest resistant.

It can also be grown in the same soil for decades without the need for crop rotation because it replenishes the soil with nutrients.

It also produces about twice as much fiber per acre as cotton and needs just a fraction of the water to grow as cotton does.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Six Good Reasons To Choose Organic Natural Fibers

  1. Eco-friendly and health-friendly organic fibers are grown and the clothing is produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, genetic modifications, or other substances and processes that pose a danger to human health or the environment.
  2. Non-organic and synthetic fibers, by contrast, release chemicals and dyes during the production and manufacturing of fibers and clothing that damage fragile ecosystems and harm wildlife.
  1. Organic natural fibers are recyclable and biodegradable, whereas non-organics and synthetics don’t easily biodegrade and they tend to accumulate in landfills to pose a disposal problem for future generations.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Six Good Reasons To Choose Organic Natural Fibers (cont’d 121)

  1. Organic fibers aren’t degraded by chemicals during growing and processing, so clothing made from these fibers is stronger than non-organics and have a longer wearing lifespan.
  2. Natural organic fabrics are more absorbable and breathable for your skin than non-organic and synthetic clothing. Compare how organic cotton feels against your skin on a hot and humid day compared to synthetics.
  3. Natural organic fibers don’t release toxic fumes from chemicals when you wear them, whereas non-organic synthetics off-gas minute amounts of the chemicals used to produce them, which you then absorb through your skin and lungs.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

What About Organic Leather?

For those of you who include animal by-product in your repertoire of clothing apparel options, leather can also fit your commitment to buying organic.

Organic’ animals, whether they are cattle or other species, are either raised in the wild or brought up on organic feed. When their skins are tanned in preparation to become products, vegetable extracts are used instead of toxic chemicals. These organic leather products don’t create the same disposal problems that conventional leathers treated with chrome produce. Manufacturers of organic leather wearing apparel are fond of saying that their product is so eco-friendly that it can actually be eaten safely by humans.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

How to Choose Safe Clothing

You need to learn how to read clothing labels not just for what they say, but what they don’t reveal to you. The identity of many chemicals used in synthetic clothing constitutes proprietary company information. In addition, federal government regulations don’t require that all chemicals used in synthetics be listed on labels. This survival section will explore all of the ways that you as a consumer can make wise choices based on a few tips for what to look for….and a lot of plain common sense.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Tips For Eco and Health Friendly Cleaning

If you buy a detergent it should be marked ‘no fragrance’ on the container.

But even if the product says ‘unscented,’ it may still actually have a fragrance inside. A few products, such as Granny’s Unscented Detergent, can be trusted, but you must do your homework to decipher which products are truly fragrance-free.

If you want a safe fragrance put in your wash and on your clothes, consider adding essential oils like rosemary. This can be a safe and effective alternative to synthetic chemical fragrances, but make certain you aren’t allergic to any essential oils before adding them.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Tips For Eco and Health Friendly Cleaning (cont’d 125)

Instead of fabric softener, use dryerballs (which shorten clothes drying time by up to 25 percent) or add a cup of ordinary baking soda to the rinse cycle.

Dry your laundry outside on a line instead of in a clothes dryer. This will cut your carbon footprint—the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases generated—by 4.4 pounds for every load of clothes dried this way.

For bleaching clothes, try adding hydrogen peroxide to the wash. Another option is to soak the clothes over night in eight parts of cold water for every one part of hydrogen peroxide, and then wash the clothes.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Tips For Silk Fabric Care

On the website wintersilks.com, home page for the Winter Silks Company based in Florida, you will find some helpful advice about how to care for your silk fabric clothing without resort to abrasive or toxic chemicals.

Here is a summary of their tips for silk care success.

Wash By Hand—It may sound and feel old-fashioned, but washing silk by hand is an easy and safe way to keep the fabric new looking. Use a non-alkaline soap and lukewarm water. Any soap residue can be dissolved by adding pure white vinegar to the rinse water. Don’t soak the silk for more than three or four minutes. Never use harsh detergents that contain bleach. And never wash in very hot or cold water.

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Tips For Silk Fabric Care (cont’d 127)

Machine Wash—If you must wash your silk fabrics in a washing machine, use a nontoxic, biodegradable 2

 

Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Natural Organic Fibers Are More Planet Friendly

When it comes to the long term health of the environment and our planet, there is no competition between natural and synthetic.

Natural organic fibers get their growth from energy that is directly generated by the sun, whose rays are our planet’s most abundant renewable resource; once their usefulness ends, these fibers biodegrade and naturally integrate back into the ecosystem.

Synthetic fibers mostly come from a non-renewable resource—fossil fuels—and they rarely biodegrade, at least not in consumer’s lifetimes.


Clothing’s Link to Breast Cancer and Infertility

Finding Our Way Back ‘Home’

What happens to clothing when it’s discarded?

Synthetic clothing doesn’t biodegrade like natural fibers, and these synthetics will be disposal headache for many generations to come.

There are some positive trends afoot with clothing, such as the emergence of soy and bamboo fibers, and a vegetable fiber called saluyot. These new natural forms of textiles are being created without reliance on petrochemicals.

We need to research and purchase the safest, most natural options available that will make us and the planet healthier.