Organic cotton compared with conventional cotton.
Most people think that if our clothes are 100% cotton, we are wearing the most natural fabric available on the market.
But the reality is quite different.
Cotton continues to be the most widely produced textile fibre on earth, meeting 47% of the world’s fibre requirements. While only 2.4% of agricultural land is dedicated to cotton cultivation, 25% of all the chemical pesticides produced in the world are used on it.
This intensive use of chemicals has a number of side effects, on the environment as well as on people:
- It decreases the fertility of the soil;
- It pollutes groundwater;
- It reduces the biodiversity of the planet;
- It is harmful to the health of growers.
The use of chemicals does not end with the growing phase. Once transformed into fibre and then fabric, cotton is whitened, washed with detergents, dyed (many dyes contain heavy metals and chemicals which are not water-soluble, and being fat soluble are absorbed by the skin), optically brightened, and, to be shown off to the best effect to consumers, treated with substances such as formaldehyde, ammonia, plastic resins, etc.*
The result is a textile which – especially due to the dyes used – tends to retain heat, so that the skin cannot breathe properly. This can lead to dermatitis and skin conditions, especially in sensitive people.
And this is without taking into account the harmful impact on the environment.
So when we buy a cotton garment, we really should wonder about the meaning of the term “pure cotton”!
Organic cotton, on the other hand, is completely natural: pleasantly soft to touch, more durable, and ensures that the skin can breathe properly. Its fibres have not absorbed chemicals, so they keep their original qualities intact.
Cotton cultivated organically, sometimes using biodynamic methods, never comes from GM seeds and it is produced using natural methods and substances which are not harmful to the environment.
Organic cotton is grown under the following conditions:
- The fertilizers used are of animal and vegetable origin;
- Parasites are eliminated using natural insect predators;
- Weeds are removed with tractors, by hoeing or by hand;
- The only seeds used have been germinated at least four times and have had no chemical treatment.
The organic cotton certification is given only after three consecutive years’ cultivation without the use of chemicals.
The certificating bodies regularly perform strict checks.
During the weaving, dyeing, finishing etc stages, no substances harmful to the environment are used. Heavy metals and aromatic amines may not be used in dyes, and formaldehyde and plastic resins are prohibited in the finishing process.
The cotton fabric is whitened using peroxide, and never chemical whiteners or bleaches.
Working with and not against nature is the principle behind the philosophy of living and working organically.
* Taken from Pesticide Action Network, www.pan-uk.org