Sunday, July 19, 2009

Second-Hand Clothes Are Healthier For You Than New

Image: Flickr, Joe Shlabotnik.

I confess to a fascination with used things. I love to feel the worn pages of a book and wonder who read this before I did, sit in a reclaimed chair and feel the comfortable grooves made by people before me who loved this chair; and, I find used clothes fit more comfortably than new.

Hand-me-downs used to be a staple in our house while I was growing up. And, they became a staple in our house while my children were growing up. Our financial situation was such that new clothes were almost totally out of reach. However, the one situation where people still try to buy everything new is in the case of a newborn baby.

The German Bundesinstituts für Risikobewertung (BfR, or National Institute for Risk Assessment) has warned that newborns need better consumer protection advocacy. Pediatrician Axel Hahn of the BfR explained: Many parents completely remodel the room for the nursery, without giving thought to the amount of harmful substances newborns face from the new furniture, paint and carpet. The conclusion? Second hand--even for baby clothing--is often the healthier choice.

Many people don’t realize that new items usually emit or leach dangerous chemicals. The overwhelming majority of new furniture emits formaldehyde from the glues and particle board constituents or chemicals added as flame retardants. New carpets can release polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) which is know to impair thyroid functioning. states this about baby clothing:
• Because of its appeal to a variety of insects, conventional cotton gets treated with pesticides more than any other crop except coffee.

• The pesticides used, cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin, are all known to cause cancer, and have been classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as the most dangerous pesticides.

• In order to give baby clothing a "finish" it is often treated with flame and stain retardants, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals.

• According to Organic Baby author Kim Rider, these chemicals can not only irritate your baby's eyes, nose and throat, but they have been linked to depression, leukemia and cancer.

• Formaldehyde is another common fabric finish. It should also be avoided, because it is a neurotoxin and carcinogen.

• Beware of synthetic fabrics, such as fleece, which are derived from petrochemicals that off-gas throughout the life of the clothing. Benzene, Ammonia, Ethylene glycol are all common in fabric finishes of fleece, polyester and polyester blends.

Many adults have hypersensitivity to environmental pollutants and are changing their lifestyles reflect this.

More and more consumers are using naturally-sourced items rather than man-made items (eg. hardwood floors rather than carpet, clothing made from natural fibres sourced from crops that are not doused with pesticides, etc.) It is only common sense that irritants that plague adults would have a far more concentrated effect on children and babies. Children and babies are especially sensitive to these additives as they have a much larger ratio of skin surface to body size, breathe more quickly, and have faster metabolic rates.

Going to a baby shower? Buy organic and/or used and explain to the mother-to-be why. She'll love you for putting her baby's health first.

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