The Benefits of Organic Cotton
To convey the benefits of some eco-friendly solutions can require
bales of education. Most people care about the planet and their own
health. But not everyone has the time to learn all there is to know
about industrial processes. For every organic spinach patch, there’s a
counter-argument about distribution, convenience, or cost.
Organic cotton, fortunately, is easier to explain. There are two
primary reasons to choose organically-grown cotton whenever you can. The
first is your own health; the other is the health of the earth. And
Those silky sheets or satiny mattress cover? The number of chemicals
that can be used to produce a conventional textile’s luxurious look or
feel is staggering.
Many are known skin irritants; some are carcinogenic. Pesticides are
also endocrine disruptors, which subtly alter the body’s hormone
balance. There is new debate
about the consequences of chronic exposure to low levels of these
compounds. Among concerns scientists have identified are increased risks
for obesity, infertility, developmental brain disorders, and cancer.
When you choose bedding and a natural mattress made with organic
cotton, you eliminate an important source of chemical exposure in your
home. Because you sleep in close contact with your bedding materials --
and for years -- organic cotton may be among the most health-protective
choices you make. Some experts believe that organic cotton is as
significant for health as organic food. Organically grown and processed
cotton will not expose you to herbicides, fungicides, or other chemical
residues. For the highest quality, also look for the GOTS seal. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification represents the most rigorous organic standards worldwide.
Then there’s the health of the planet. The environmental consequences
of conventional cotton production are horrendous. Conventional cotton
uses more pesticides than any crop on earth -- and more of the most toxic kinds.
These chemicals poison the soil and wildlife, drift into waterways,
contaminate livestock even when applied to fields miles away, and wind
up in human tissue. They also destroy entire ecosystems. For example,
the fourth-largest body of water on earth, the Aral Sea -- once a thriving food resource, is now too polluted from cotton agriculture to support fish.
Turning the Corner
Like our environment, human beings suffer from conventional cotton
production at every step of the cycle. Agricultural laborers’ children
sprayed while playing near cotton fields, factory workers exposed to a
slew of toxins, and consumers who wear or sleep on fabrics that carry
chemical residues -- all could testify that non-organic cotton is NOT
“the fabric of our lives.” Ready for a hopeful note? More people are
turning toward organic cotton. Global output has exploded, increasing over 500% in a recent four-year period.
So when you choose your natural mattress, make it an organic one. A
mattress casing of pure organic cotton not only is better for your
health, but the unbleached color is beautiful. It’s a natural reminder
that simpler materials are safer ones for you, for those you love, and
for the earth we live on together.
Trickster in Your Sheets
In folklore, a trickster
is a person who lies or deceives. In our tale, it’s a trickster
chemical. Thanks to wily marketing, it supposedly “does you good” but….
There’s no happy ending.
Ready to add sumptuous sheets or other bedding to your natural
bedroom? When you’re shopping for mattresses or bedding, beware products
described with terms like “antibacterial”, “odor controlling” or
similar terms. They have been treated with one of the more hazardous
(and common) chemicals found in home products today—triclosan.
You may have heard that antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers (most
made with triclosan) are contributing to dangerous antibiotic
resistance in the population—and that they’re not one bit
better at getting rid of germs than ordinary soap and water! But you may
not have known that triclosan is also embedded in many mattresses and
Triclosan is associated with a number of negative health effects. It
is toxic to the liver, and at low doses, can increase the proliferation
of breast cancer or other cancer cells. It chemically mimics thyroid
hormone while blocking normal hormones in the body. It even raises the
risk of developing hay fever and food allergies—an ironic wake-up for
parents who may believe that “antibacterial” bedding sounds as though
it’d be better for kids.
It’s not, and it’s not better for you, either. It’s also extremely
harmful to the environment, because it damages marine algae that are
responsible for much of the earth’s photosynthesis.
Keeping It Clean
The bottom line on keeping bedding clean and odor free is not to rely
on added chemicals. The best answer is the same as for the
how-do-I-sanitize-my-hands? dilemma. You sanitize your hands by washing
them with soap (or using a triclosan-free sanitizer when you can’t find a
sink). Soap’s the right approach for healthful bedding, too. Just wash
your bedding regularly with an eco-friendly laundry soap and “odor control” won’t even be an issue.
It’s worth pondering that using so many antibacterials wasn’t even on
consumers’ radar until clever companies advertised the “sanitize
everything” idea to death—and spooked many people into believing that
all germ exposure is dangerous.
In fact, exposure to bacteria is exactly what helps children develop
healthy immune systems. That doesn’t mean we should ditch household
cleanliness or common-sense hygiene, such as always washing hands
thoroughly after using the bathroom or before eating. (Using
triclosan-free sanitizers on shopping-cart handles during colds season
is a smart move, too.)
But triclosan added to mattresses, mattress pads or sheets? Time to boot this chemical from your bed.