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From the $50 garment to the $10 garment, research suggests that the mass production of synthetic fibers in fast fashion can lead to significant exposure to harmful chemicals in our bodies. 

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, fast fashion is growing tremendously, with rock-bottom prices and the number of new garments made yearly nearly doubling over the past 20 years. But at what cost?

The harsh chemicals used in manufacturing these low-cost, stylish products create potential health hazards. Garments, from underwear to skirts, can contain a variety of harmful substances, with risks of irritation, respiratory, developmental, and reproductive problems, and certain cancers. 

For instance, Fashion Nova includes a “California Proposition 6” warning in their listed product details. The proposition requires businesses to provide warnings about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, congenital disabilities or other reproductive harm.

At a cost to the environment and human rights, fast fashion has changed the landscape of the fashion industry by manufacturing garments in bulk to stay ahead of the seasons and ever-changing trends. Popular Chinese retail company Shein will upload an estimated 1,000 new styles to the site daily. 

Gain awareness about these three commonly known synthetic fibers.

Polyester is a known carcinogen. 

First developed in the 1940s, polyester is the most used synthetic fiber in clothing. It is also highly durable, made of petroleum and can contain plastic. As a carcinogen, a formation of cancer, polyester can lead to problems such as lung and skin cancer if worn excessively. 

On the other hand, fast fashion brands from ASOS to SHEIN justified the use of recycled polyester to make collections” “sustainable” or “conscious.”

Some uses of polyester:

  • Gloves
  • Hats
  • Scarves
  • Coats
  • Towels

Nylon is a synthetic material made from fossil fuels.

Although the material is solid, nylon is a petroleum-based material and is heavily treated with a variety of elements, such as bleaching agents and synthetic dyes. Research has found that the manufacturing process releases nitrogen oxides and ammonia. Such things have been linked to immune problems, skin issues and cancer, to name only a few. Along with being exceptionally strong and stretchy, nylon does not absorb moisture and wearing it can create a breeding ground for odor and fungal infections.

Uses of Nylon:

  • Shirts
  • Lingerie
  • Raincoats
  • Swimwear
  • Underwear
  • Cycling wear

Rayon is often treated with toxic chemicals and synthetic substances.

Rayon was the first fiber manufactured and developed in the late 19th century. Also known as viscose, it is the world’s third most commonly used textile fiber. Called artificial silk until 1924, rayon was a less expensive alternative to silk clothing and accessories. However, the most common is the viscose process, which uses toxic chemicals to break down the wood pulp and turn it into a fiber, the CDFA reported. These chemicals are dangerous for your body and have been classified as a cancer-forming material.

Uses of Rayon:

  • Tunics
  • Skirts 
  • Dresses
  • Lingerie
  • Children’s clothing.

Whether you’re looking to replace or upgrade your wardrobe, consider these seven Black-owned sustainable fashion brands.

  1. Míe
  2. Jo-Anne Vernay
  3. Chelsea Bravo Studio
  4. Autumn Adeigbo
  5. Aliya Wanek
  7. Two Days Off
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