August 16, 2022

Toxic metal fashion. – Gray green

Red, orange, yellow, blue, and … not so green

Many designers are aware of the environmental impact of the type of fabric they use: natural versus synthetic materials, for example. However, many have yet to consider the toxicity of fabric dyes and color pollution. When colors are eye-catching, add style, and splash on fabrics, fabric dyeing is, unfortunately, one of the most polluted parts of textile production.

Let’s take a brief look at the history of textile dyes and then ask the question of the impact of textile dyes on the environment and human health: Is there a sustainable solution?

Over the centuries, people have dyed clothes by tapping the colors of insects and plants. Red colors can be obtained from insects such as caramel or cochineal. Magnetic blue comes from indigo, which is one of the oldest known colors. In the 7th century BC, a neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablet was found near modern-day Iraq that offers a wool dye recipe. Returning to 4000 years ago, dyed cloth has been found in Egyptian tombs, and hieroglyphs also show the process of using natural colors.

Perkin’s Mauve

Commercial synthetic dye industry started In 1856, When William Henry Perkin accidentally created Mauve, the first synthetic dye. The first synethic color was mauve. Perkin’s mousse was extracted from petrochemicals (coal tar) in an attempt to produce quinine. From there, the chemical dye industry started. Aniline dyes such as Perkins have become more popular over the years, especially as factory textile-production has become mainstream. Aniline dyesWhich was widely available until 1860, provided long lasting color options

3Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Negative effects of fabric dyeing

Today, it’s over 90% Toxic chemical dyes are used in our clothes. It is estimated to increase every year 10,000 Various dyes are used industrially and 700,000 tons of synthetic dyes are produced. The way these colors are used can cause great harm to the environment and wildlife and human health.

Water use and water pollution

Toxic fashion water waste is terrible. Fabric dyeing is not only a highly water-intensive process, but it also releases large amounts of toxic chemicals into the water system and surrounding ecosystems.

20% of the world’s industrial water pollution Is the cause of textile production, and only 5 trillion liters of water each year is used to dye fabrics.

Each year, the dyeing and finishing process of the textile industry is almost released 200,000 tons of dye In the garbage Most of this industrial effluent does not go through wastewater treatment plants, and is instead discharged into waterways and groundwater. Chemicals released from industrial textile dyeing are very slow to decompose in the environment, as their stability in light and temperature makes them difficult to biodegrade.

Most industrial wastes of wastewater are irregular or neglected because the waste often escapes through pipes and is difficult to find at the original source. While some countries have laws governing industrial runoffs (for example, the USEPA) Textile Mills Effluent Guidelines), Many regulations around the world are either not strong enough to effectively reduce the amount of textile dye in the waste, or are not strictly enforced. Even in countries with dirty clothing regulations, Study Trace levels of carcinogenic toxins such as amines have still been found in some fabrics and drips.

Impact of water pollution in textile industry

Dyes used to dye clothing often contain chemicals that are extremely harmful to both wildlife and human health. For example, azo dyes are a group of synthetic dyes that were written in 2011. More than 50% Of paints produced annually worldwide. Azo dyes contain amines, which have been shown to cause cancer (and are then banned in many areas, including European Union). While azo dyes have gradually lost popularity due to concerns about their toxicity, they are still used in some areas. In addition, there are other chemicals used to dye clothes Equally toxicAnd can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and cancer.

When toxic dyes are released into rivers or other bodies of water, they can cause serious harm to human and wildlife health. For example, communities that live near factories that dye clothes Unequal effects Dyed clothes, as they depend on rivers for clean drinking water, safe food and often for their livelihood.

Just as water from a factory flows into the ocean, textile dye chemicals can also contribute Ocean acidificationWhich can damage every layer of the seafood chain.

Finally, chemicals used to dye clothes can harm a worker’s health.

One of the natural assumptions is that the immediate solution to the problem of toxic fabric dyeing is to switch to natural dyes. However, natural colors should also be viewed with a critical eye.

Just because a factory uses natural dyes (a very rare phenomenon) doesn’t mean the environmental impact is low. This is because many natural dyes must be applied to the fabric using chemicals called “mordants”, which are used to fix the natural, non-toxic dye to the fabric fibers. These mordants can be toxic and cause similar problems to traditional dyes when soaked in water. While some inventors like DyeCoo Looking to use carbon dioxide instead of water to add color to fabrics (this eliminates the use of water and water pollution in the first place), these techniques are quite new and their environmental effects need to be analyzed on a long-term scale.

Another issue with the large-scale industrial use of natural dyes is that in addition to the fibers required for natural dyes, the sources of these natural dyes need to use large amounts of agricultural land to grow, as most natural dyes are bound only with natural dyes. Fibers, such as cotton or silk, have their own moral and environmental problems.

So, For small designers or for home use, less harmful mordants can be used. For example, table salt and dilute vinegar bind natural colors to fabrics, helping the color last longer and become more vibrant. Other natural colors “Original colors“The use of mordant is not necessary for tying on clothes and is a good, non-toxic alternative to dyeing safe clothes. Additionally, many people are using other sustainable fabric dyeing methods, including traditional Thai methods. Dyeing of cloth from buffalo manure.

  1. Designers, please, design without toxic colors.

Ideally, we would move away from dyed fabrics or embrace the fading process. Some large companies, such as Mountain Hardware, are already purposefully producing unpainted products (such as Marmot’s “Echo AF” line. White sleeping bag), Although of course their production involves other temporary processes.

  1. Inventors can improve color recycling and the collection of toxic dyes

While many of us cannot live without colorful clothing, it is probably more realistic to look for ways to work from the current system towards a less harmful future. Interim solutions can help in transitioning away from toxic activities. For example, company Intake Work with digital printing, a process that, even if not complete, uses less water and produces less waste. New technologies may help reduce the toxic effects of textile dyeing in the future, but for now we must do where we are.

  1. What can consumers do about toxic dyes?

So, assuming the fabric colors are here to stay, what can consumers do? Request appropriate labels with pollution indicators. Demand for transparency. Demand for sustainable materials and fabric colors. Ask questions Practice slow fashion. Shop secondhand until the fashion crisis is over. The most effective strategy is to buy less and be aware of where our clothes and garments come from.

  1. What about the manufacturers?

Manufacturers, small brands and designers are in direct contact with consumers. Manufacturers appear in communities. They can inform and educate consumers in boutiques and marketing. They should take into account the environmental impact of the colors as well as the fabric, perceptions, and haberdashery they use.

  1. What about brands?

To a large extent, brands are responsible for the toxic water waste they create. This may include pressure to build wastewater treatment facilities that include toxic substances from wastewater before they enter waterways or the increasing demand for transparency and known voluntary compliance. Environmental parameters For the textile industry.

  1. What about the workers? Pay attention to clothing pollution and green washing

To avoid “green washing”, it is important to critically evaluate the brand, rather than taking a statement of sustainability in their word. Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion campaign And the fashion revolution, the Clean Clothing Campaign, and other climate organizations have come a long way in increasing our transparency in the fashion world, as they offer real solutions not only to raising public awareness of environmental issues, but also to prevent the spread of fashion pollution. .

  1. What about policy makers? New law to prevent pollution crime.

Increasing regulation of textile chemicals and wastewater treatment will be important to reduce the impact of industrial fashion production on the environment and human health. The sad truth is that big brands are unlikely to move towards truly sustainable products without external pressure from consumers or government regulation. The good news is that there are some New laws In places that increase responsibility for the textile industry and create penalties for non-compliance. For example, the EU strategy for sustainable textiles The EU aims to push the fashion industry into a global economy. Some Argument It doesn’t really push the textile industry enough to change, such as not requiring transparency from manufacturers and not setting clear goals for the reuse of materials. However, the EU’s new strategy certainly represents a step in the right direction, and more countries must follow ambitious rules for the textile industry.

Communities can work together to fight textile pollution through the city. Each of us can spread the word about color toxicity. While we wait for innovation with smart solutions to deal with clutter, trendsetters need to promote sustainable colors.

Currently color is a design error. Can we correct this fashion error? Expanding beyond dye, what about fluorescent and metal? Is it possible to get a replacement for the toxic glow? The design should briefly include safe colors and safe metals. Let’s develop metal dyes without toxins? Can We Make ‘Shiny, Shiny Leather Shoes’ Sustainable? Can we invent non-toxic dyes? Of course, we can.


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Bik, Rachel, etc. “The Global Environmental Injustice of Fast Fashion.” Environmental Health, Vol. 17, no. 1, 2018,

Bomgardner, Michael. “These new fabric dyeing methods can make fashion more sustainable.” Chemical and engineering newsJuly 15, 2018.

Burekhampun, Suthasini and Chanida Manipun. “Eco-Friendly and Community Sustainable Fabric Dyeing Methods from Thai Buffalo Manure: From Charan to Fashion Designer.” SAGE open, Volume. 11, no. 4, 2021, p. 2158244021110582.,

Chavan, R.B. “Eco-friendly colors.” Handbook of textiles and industrial dyeingPages 515-561, 2011.

Examiner and others. “Textile dyes: dyeing process and environmental effects.” Eco-friendly textile dyeing and finishingJanuary 16, 2013 DOI: 10.5772 / 53659.

Willis, Sophia. “How sustainable dyeing is changing the textile industry.” PlugandPlay, March 22, 2021.

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