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What is Eco-Textiles?

The textile industry is considered as the most ecologically harmful industry in the world. The Eco-problems in textile industry occur during some production processes and are carried forward right to the finished product. In the production process like bleaching and then dyeing, the subsequent fabric makes a toxin that swells into our ecosystem.Therefore the need for eco-textiles is felt.Green textiles refer to clothing and other accessories that are designed to use the organic and recycled material.

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What is Eco-Textiles?

In recent years ecological issues have loomed large especially in textile and apparel industry, an industry not noted for eco-friendliness.Every textile item releases effluents that are harmful to the environment.The traditional textile industry consumes large amounts of earth’s natural resources and pollutes the environment as their production and processing involve Chemical Intensive Applications, therefore, the need for green textiles. During the production process controlling pollution is as vital as making a product free from the toxic effect. The utilization of rayon for clothing has added to the fast depleting forests and opened the door to the development of natural sustainable fibers like Organic Cotton, Hemp, and Bamboo fibers. Petroleum-based products are harmful to the environment. In order to safeguard our environment from these effects, an integrated pollution control approach is needed.Fabrics made in an eco-friendly way can substitute normal products.Green textiles refer to clothing and other accessories that are designed to use organic and recycled materials, less packaging and more energy-efficient manufacturing.Reducing the environmental impact throughout the life-cycle of a fabric item or using lower impact products can contribute actively to improve the situation.In general, there are four major environmental key factors associated with the making of textiles: water, energy, pollution, and use of non-renewable resources.

Green Activities in Textile Industries

Textile and clothing manufacturers are encouraged to re-examine the whole life cycle of their products with the aim to minimize environmental degradation at every stage, from manufacturing to disposal. They have to pay special attention in the selection of dyes and ensure the products are low in formaldehyde and free from pesticides and heavy metals. The reason behind those environmental requirements in textile and garment are as follows:

General Parameters & Restrictions Reasons
pH Value Human skin has a light acid coating which inhibits the development of many diseases, textiles in which the pH lies in the neutral(pH7) or slightly acid region(below 7)are friendly to the skin. Alos, under extreme pH conditions fabric will be damaged.
Formaldehyde Content Easy care finishing incorporates artificial resin containing formaldehyde which is intended to prevent shrinkage and to give the product a crease- resistant, smooth dry and soil release finish. However, resin finished fabric may retain chlorine resulting in fishy odor, fabric damage, and skin irritations. Formaldehyde is found in clothing in a latent form as resin and also as free formaldehyde (split off from the resin by high temperature, pH or oxidants). Formaldehyde has a strong irritant effect on the mucous membrane and may cause inflammation of the human respiratory tract. It can also give rise to inflammation of the skin. Formaldehyde is one of the most significant allergy-causing agents and is probably also cancer inducing.
Heavy Metal Residues Heavy metals are constituents of dyes. They can also be found in natural fibers because plants can absorb them through the soil or the air. Once absorbed by human, heavy metals tend to accumulate in the liver, kidney, bones heart and brain. The effect on health can be tremendous when a certain level of accumulation is reached in affecting organs, e.g. mercury will affect the nervous system. The condition is particularly serious to children because of their higher absorption of the heavy metals
Pesticides RE=esidues Pesticides are used in cotton cultivation for combating insects and also as moth protection during storage. They are rated from slightly to strongly toxic for humans. Sometimes they are very easily assimilated into the skin.Linden is a possible cause assumed to be cancer inducing.
Pentachlorophenol(PCP) & 2,3,5,6-Tetrachlorophenol(TCP) To prevent mold spots(caused by fungi) chlorinated phenols are applied directly on the textiles and leather mainly in the third world countries. Both PCP and TCP are very toxic and regarded as cancer-inducing substances.
Azo Dyestuffs Azostuffs which can be reductively separated in arylamine of the MAK Groups III A1 and III A2 should not be used This is the name of the group of synthetic dyestuffs based on nitrogen and which are often used for textiles.Separation products of certain Azo dyestuffs are regarded as cancer-inducing and allergic. If a person has once been sensitized, other products which are containing Azo dyestuffs will lead to allergic reactions.
Chlorinated Organic Carriers Commonly used as an antistatic agent and flame retarding agent. It is very toxic which can cause pigmentation to the skin, gastrointestinal disturbance and cancer.
Notes on Color Fastness Wetting, sweating or rubbing may cause color migration of garments. Those dye pigments released are easily absorbed by a human through the skin are especially harmful to babies.Particular attention should be paid to the colorfastness of babywearing.
Notes on the smell of Mildew, Heavy Naptha, Fish, Aromas or Anti-odor Finishes The presence of this smell means that too many residual chemicals are left in the textiles. There exhibits a possibility that it is hazardous to human health.
Release of Nickel
European Parliament and Council Directive 94/27/EC with three European Testing standards

  • EN 1810
  • EN 1811
  • En 12472
The presence of nickel in certain objects coming into direct and prolonged skin contact may cause sensitization of humans to nickel and may lead to allergic reactions.The use of nickel in such objects is thus limited. Such objects include rivet buttons, tighteners, rivets, zippers and metal marks when these are used in garments.
Organotin Compound
(TBT and DBT)
Tributyltin(TBT) are organotin compounds used for antimicrobial finishing. High concentration is considered toxic. These substances can be taken up via the skin and effects, depending on the dosage, out nervous system.In the textile industry, organotin compounds have been used for preventing the bacterial degradation of sweat and the corresponding unpleasant odor of socks, shoes and sports clothes.
Dibutyltin(DBT) are also organotin compounds with various applications, such as an intermediate for stabilizers of polyvinyl chloride, a catalyst for electrodeposition paints, a catalyst for various types of polyurethanes and a catalyst for esterification.
Dry cleaning using Ozone
Depleting chemicals(ODCs)
The EPA Clean Air Act amendment of the U.S required a warning label for products containing or manufactured with class I ODCs and banned the use of Class II ODCs in those nonessential products e.g foam components.
Dry cleaning is often not justified and it obliges the store to dry clean the fabric even through a normal wash would suffice. In the dry cleaning process, CFC( freons= ozone killers) are used which are very hostile to the environment. CFCs are not degradable in the air layers closest to earth. They move to the stratosphere after tens of years and contribute to the decline of the ozone layer (hence leading to the greenhouse effect).
Limit the use of “Brighteners” Visual brighteners are not only used for whitewashing that is to look beautifully brilliant white.Pastel toned clothes are also finished with such substances to give them “added brilliance”. Visual brighteners transform invisible UV light into visible blue light. To the human eye, a white with a light blue tinge appears especially white. These substances can give rise to allergies and skin disease.
Limit the use of “Softening agents” Textiles feel hard to the tough after the finishing process, so softening agents are added to give the fibers a soft and flexible surface. Softeners are known to be allergens and burden the water consumption in the industry as well as in the home.
Merchandise should be produced in an environmentally compatible manner. The products should be made from recycled material. Environmentally kind raw materials should be used in the production. Energy consumption should be reduced in production. The product should be recycled easily when no longer needed. A low pollution disposal is required when the products no longer needed.
Limit the use of Packaging The more packaging materials we use, the higher the chance we have to dispose of them.
The packaging should be easily disposed of. Many blister packs and boxes are made of polyvinyl chloride(PVC) plastic. In bur of one kilo of PVC, 582 grams of hydrochloric acid are emitted into the environment( causing acid rain)
Plastic packaging materials should be declared The declaration directly on the plastic itself is the determining factor for recognition and collection of the various plastics.
Phthalates in PVC Phthalates are the most common plasticisers used to soften PVC. Softened PVC is very useful due to its greater flexibility and workability. However, some studies showed that the softened PVC when analyzed under stimulated conditions, might release phthalates in quantities which were considered to cause a potential hazardous effect on young children especially for those under the age of three.
Flame Retardant Flame Retardant is usually added to the textile material to improve its flame resistance. some common ones are 2,3 dibromoprophyl phosphate, Polybrominated biphenyls(PBB) and Polybrominated diphenyl ether(PBDE). However, prolonged exposure to a then-high dosage of flame retardant will have a considerable effect such as for impair or immune system, hypothyroidism, memory loss and joint stiffness.
Biocides Biocides are usually organotin compounds or quaternary ammonium compounds.Most of them are toxic in nature.They are used as the antifungal or antibacterial agent.
Allergic Dyes/Carcinogenic Dyes Some dyestuffs used in textile industry are classified as allergic dyes/carcinogenic dyes.Prolonged exposure to them may lead to an allergic reaction or even cancer inducing. In the meantime,19 kinds of dyestuffs are classified as allergic dyes while 7 kinds of dyestuffs are classified as carcinogenic dyes according to Oko-Tex Standard 100
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