What is organic cotton? What are the benefits of buying organic cotton clothes for my baby and children? How does buying organic cotton clothing instead of conventional cotton clothing make a difference to the planet? These are just a few of the common question we often get asked by parents.
We know that organic food is much better for our health and we know that using organic cleaning products are safer to use. But did you know that the material your little ones clothes are made from matters too?
What does “organic” mean
The term “organic” has been around for a long time now and it has gained a remarkable status over the years!
According to Organic Standards, “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. And the management practices that restore maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”
For a organic cotton clothing to be labeled “Certified Organic” it needs to have received a recognised certification. There are a number of national and international standards and these include The Soil Association, Ecocert, and Oeko-tex. These certificates are only given to an item when strict guidelines are met. Ensuring that each and every step of production meets the guidelines, from the soil where the seed is grown to the processing and manufacturing facilities in which they make the clothes.
The harm with conventional cotton
Organic cotton is grown in a more natural, less harmful way. It’s not farmed in the conventional way. They don’t use harmful pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms to help grow their crops. These toxins have a harmful effect on farmers and other workers. On wildlife eco-systems and on us as consumers.
After rainfall these deadly chemicals run-off and end up contaminating waterways, lakes and rivers. There has been an increase of pesticide residue being found in farm animals, in our food and even in breast milk! These carcinogens are responsible for cancer in adults and have been associated with neurodevelopmental effects in children.
Harmful chemical residue trapped in conventional cotton and other fabrics can have a debilitating impact on our daily lives. Causing headaches and dizziness, irritating the skin and causing rashes and discomfort. The effect on a babies skin is even more harmful. A baby’s skin is more porous and thinner than an adult’s skin. Their delicate skin absorbs more easily and penetrates deeper into their skin layers. It’s less resistant than adult skin and very sensitive to chemicals and other substances that that come into contact with their skin. This makes their skin more fragile and less oily than an adult’s. A baby’s skin also produces less melanin, the substance that helps to protect them against sunburn.
Cotton is one of the biggest crops grown for use in clothing production but as it’s not a food crop there are no regulations on the pesticides, herbicides and chemicals used on cotton. You may even think if you’re not eating it then there’s no problem. How I wish that were true! You only have to look at articles from WWF Global and Pan-UK to realise the effects of harmful pesticides. From pesticide poisoning, the run-off of harmful chemicals into water, leaving livestock to ingest such harmful toxins. And the many who suffer from chronic ill health like cancers, leukemia, and neurological diseases.
Cotton crops alone account for $2.6 billion in pesticides used each year. Even though cotton only uses 2.4% of all cultivated land, 25% of the world’s pesticides and 10% of the world’s insecticides are used on it yearly. In other words, for every one pair of jeans and t-shirt produced, 1 pound of pesticides and chemical fertilisers are used. The problems with clothing production do not stop in the field. During the conversion of conventional cotton into clothing, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage. Harsh petroleum scours, softeners, brighteners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia and formaldehyde are added.
Benefits of organic cotton
Instead of using toxins to grow and manage their crops, organic farmers use other safer methods such as crop rotation. The physical removal of weed instead of harmful chemical toxins. Using beneficial insects to counteract the bad and many more safer options. This gives farmers and workers much safer working conditions and safer environment.
The water quality is not compromised by run-off, and this makes for strong healthy soil. No pesticide residue is spread through the waterways, lakes and rivers. Which in turn doesn’t contaminate farm animals. All adding to a positive change to our environment and our lives.
The benefits of organic cotton clothing for babies and children are especially important. Toxins can make their skin less resistant to bacteria and harmful substances in the environment, especially if irritated. Babies also sweat less efficiently than the rest of us, so it’s harder for them to maintain their inner body temperature. A baby’s skin is more delicate and thinner, less resistant and absorbs more easily. Chemicals and other substances that that come into contact with their skin penetrate deeper into their skin layers. Making their skin more fragile, meaning that children are at greater risk from pesticide-related health problems.
Buying organic cotton clothing helps to reduce the amount of toxins your little one is exposed to daily. This can help prevent irritation and is extremely helpful if your little one suffers from a dry skin condition like eczema. Dressing your little one in organic cotton clothing can help prevent flare ups and as theres no harmful chemicals and pesticides they wont cause irritation on their delicate skin.
Organic cotton naturally lasts longer
Cotton fibres in conventionally produced cotton go through so much with all the scouring, bleaching, dying, softeners, formaldehyde spray, and flame and soil retardants before it is even shipped to be cut for patterns. This process takes a toll on the fibres. Conventional cotton clothes only lasts around 10-20 washes before the cotton starts to break down. However Organic cotton lasts doesn’t go through these harsh processes. It takes around 100 washes before it starts to break down the cotton because its not been subjected to such harsh production.
It’s more natural and and gentler processes makes organic cotton clothing feel so much softer on your little ones delicate skin.
Choosing organic cotton
A growing number of brands and manufacturers are making the commitment to use organic fabrics. As we know the harm that comes from harmful chemicals and pesticides we understand now more than ever the need to keep toxins away from our families and out of our environment. And it’s up to us as consumers to recognise and get behind these movements. Shopping organic along with the fit and styles we choose. A natural step in the right direction towards a more kinder, natural living.