Did you know polyester is made from plastic? We usually associate BPA with plastics or canned goods, but it is also in clothes made from plastic fibers such as polyester. The Center for Environmental Health is calling out 7 brands of sport bras and 5 brands of athletic shirts that are 22x the same limit of BPA allowed. The brands? The sports bra brands include Athleta, PINK, Asics, The North Face, All in Motion, Nike, and FILA. The activewear shirt brands include The North Face, Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance, and Reebok.
BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it messes with our hormones. The endocrine system is our central command system the controls most every process in our body. The glands of the endocrine system such as the pituitary, thyroid, pineal gland, etc. are like communicators stationed throughout our body. They send and receive their messages via hormones that secrete in our bloodstream and attach to receptors where they pass along their information. Information such as physical development, when to get sleepy, when to pick up or slow down metabolism, when to digest, when we need stress hormones and when we don’t are just some examples of hormones working in our body.
BPA mimics estrogen, binding to estrogen receptors and blocking the flow of information our body is trying to send and receive.
The pituitary is constantly monitoring this activity. Our hormones work in a concert, when one is out of balance it throws the whole “machine” (our body) out of balance. Out of balance hormones means you feel yucky. Your hormones greatly influence how you feel.
Our skin, being our largest organ, wraps around us to protect us. The skin has many layers, 4-5 depending where it is located, and it does make a good protective barrier. However the skin has pores to allow toxins out and sweat out to help us release internal heat. It is through the pores and hair follicles that the skin absorbs what we put on it. The American Journal of public released some studies showing the skin absorbs 64% of chemicals found in products we put on our skin such as cosmetics, toiletries, even tap water contaminants, and clothing. Tight sports wear clothing sitting on your skin while you heat up your body with exercise allows the BPA to creep through your pores and hair follicles where it gets direct access to your bloodstream. When you eat something toxic your liver filters it out, when toxins get through your pores they get direct access to your bloodstream.
So what to do? Read your labels and avoid polyester clothing, While manufacturers may taut they are eco friendly because they are made from recycled soda bottles we don’t want to wear toxic soda bottles!
What fabrics are the best to wear?
- organic cotton – non organic cotton is heavily sprayed
- bamboo – its warmer than cotton
- hemp – also warmer
- cashmere – is goat wool, also a bit warmer
I’m also not a fan of rayon or modal, they are processed in ways that are not good as well. Nylon is a thermoplastic made from petroleum, I would avoid that as well. Acrylic is a transparent plastic material, and it is quite scratchy on the skin, not comfortable to wear anyway.
Sadly spandex, lycra, elastane – which are all the same thing, are polyurethane that is made from plastic, initially engineered by Dupont. While it’s not as toxic as BPA it’s still plastic. And its non-biodegradable like plastic. There are some companies working on making sugar based and corn based spandex, but these are hard to find and still pricey, though its a step in the right direction.
I tried yoga pants without spandex, while they are very comfortable they get baggy in the knees and butt and just don’t look professional. So I look for yoga pants with 10% or less spandex.
When you wash polyester or spandex, microfiber plastics break off and get in the water supply. And when you trash them they are forever chemicals. The best you can do is try to avoid buying and supporting companies who use them. Seek out companies who are more aware and support them.
I did find this $40 washing bag that captures the microplastics. While it keeps them from the water supply, they still end up in the trash.
Dyes are toxic too. Sadly. There are natural dyes available, for example the yoga mats I get from India that use only tulsi, turmeric, sandalwood, saffron and other herbs. Also places like Peru make their clothes from natural plant dyes. There are some companies moving in the direction of natural dyes.
Many synthetic textile dyes used today, like azo dyes and indigo dyes, are carcinogenic. These dyes are banned in the EU and some other nations due to their toxicity, they are still commonly used in fast fashion clothing in the US. Since azo dyes are water-soluble, they are easy for your skin to absorb. Indigo dye is a chemical cocktail that includes formaldehyde. Yikes.
Sadly, many people who live in places in Bangladesh and China where a lot of textiles are made, can’t access clean drinking or bathing water because of this dye-driven contamination.
Here are some of the brands I buy who are moving in the right direction (I have NO affiliation):
- Yoga Clothes: Inner waves – they are 90% organic cotton and 10% spandex.
- Apparel including intimate apparel: Cottonique
- Blue Canoe
Just like we read the label of the foods we put in our body, we also need to read the labels of everything we put on our body.