Go Organic and Avoid Dangerous Toxins in Clothes

The benefits of organic food are widely known and sales in organic groceries are increasing, but less attention is paid to the clothing people wear and put on their children.

There are lots of reasons why parents should buy organic clothes for their little ones.

Hidden Formaldehyde

Remember that stuff they preserved dead frogs with in biology class? Formaldehyde is present in children's clothing and bedding, even though it is classified as a carcinogen implicated in the developmental of throat and nasal cancers and as a 'probable' cause of leukaemia.

 It is used as a fixative to adhere dyes to fabrics so that the colours don't run in the wash. It helps make fabrics more flame retardant and it prevents crinkles. Any clothing labelled 'non-iron' likely contains formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde in children's clothing can cause contact dermatitis and other skin irritations.


Antimony is a similar structure to arsenic. It is used in the manufacture of polyester and is a component used in making clothing fire resistant. It is a carcinogen and can cause skin reactions, lung irritation and stomach pain. Chronic exposure to antimony can result in infertility. 


Organotins are chemicals that include tin that are used to prevent fabrics becoming damaged in transit and to prevent odours. They are often used in the manufacture of sports wear. Organotins are hormone disruptors in humans and thus can cause a range of health problems. They are also devastating to marine life and can cause certain species of marine life to change gender. Female invertebrates, for example, can change to male. Disruption of gender and other serious health problems caused by organotins put marine species at risk of extinction.

Poly-Fluorinated Chemicals  

Poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFC's) are compounds that contain fluoride. These are added to clothing to make them water repellent. They are used primarily in sportswear including baby and children's swimwear. Exposure to PFC's damages immune system function and can also make vaccines less effective. Children who had high levels of PFC's in their body mounted less antibodies in response to vaccination than children exposed to fewer PFC's.

Pesticides and Insecticides 

A large amount of pesticide and insecticide residue is present in clothing made of natural, non-synthetic clothing. Cotton typically has the highest amount of pesticide present as it is heavily sprayed on the crop. Exposure to pesticides and insecticides is known to cause neuro-developmental disorders in children.

What Can Parents Do?

To protect their children and the environment, parents can:

  •  Buy organic clothes - these are made from crops that are grown without the use of pesticides or insecticides. Some manufacturers of organic clothing also endeavour not to include any harmful additives such as formaldehyde.
  • Avoid clothing with labels such as 'non-iron', 'crease-free', 'stain-proof', 'water repellent' or 'anti-bacterial' - items with this labels are made with toxic additives.
  • Buy pre-loved (second-hand) children's clothing. These may still contain some chemical residues but no new chemicals are released into the environment. Buying second-hand is also a form of recycling.


Harmful Toxins Used in Baby Clothes Should be Banned, Advocates Say. The Guardian, 21 June 2015. 

Toxic Chemicals in Children's Clothes Explained, DW, Page Accessed 9/7/19.

Serum Vaccine Antibody Titers in Children Exposed to Perfluoridated Compounds, JAMA, 25 January 2012.