Conventional Cotton's Dirty Secret

If you are visiting this blog, you are probably one of the many parents curious about organic cotton. Is it better for your babies? Is it worth the extra effort to find organic clothing? Isn’t cotton a “natural” fiber already and thus of little concern?

The media would have you believe that regular cotton is the best fabric choice for you and your family. You may have seen ads depicting happy parents snuggling their children in conventional cotton clothes. Not to mention it is easy to find, inexpensive and simple to work with.

Despite a lot of excellent marketing, however, conventional cotton has some dirty secrets. Most parents are surprised to learn the actual facts about the cotton industry and how it impacts their life, the lives of farmers and the future world for their kids.

Becoming Conscious Consumers

conventional cottons dirty secret organic cottonIt is common to be clueless about these things. In our go-go-go world, it’s not like you don’t have plenty to think about already! And if you’re a parent, you probably feel like you don’t have the time nor energy to worry about the details of where or how the stuff you buy came to be.In our consumer-driven world, it is easy to buy and use products off the shelf without giving much thought to where they came from. Of all the clothing in your closet, how many do you know the fabric type of or the country of making? Do you know what kinds of chemicals are in your lotions, soaps and facial products? Do you know where the produce you buy was grown and/or how it was grown?

We’re here to help! We believe that knowledge is power and that knowledge about the cotton industry is worth the effort to share. Remember: you vote with your dollars. The clothing you choose to buy has more impact on your family and the future than you’ve been led to believe.

Conventional Cotton vs. Organic Cotton Facts

So what’s all the hype about with cotton? Is there really that much of a difference between conventional and organic? Let’s take a look at some of the differences between conventional cotton and organic cotton and you can decide for yourself.

Conventional Cotton Facts

  • Processed With Harmful Chemicals. Conventional cotton is processed with chlorine bleach, formaldehyde and hydrogen peroxide. A derivative of bleach, dioxin is considered a carcinogen and is a known hormone disrupter.
  • Heavy Use Of Toxic Pesticides And Insecticides. Conventional cotton takes up only 2.5% of cultivated land, but accounts for more than 16% of pesticides and 23% of insecticides used around the globe. Pesticides used for cotton farming are often organophosphate-pesticides, which were developed as toxic nerve agents during World War II. The top ten most commonly used insecticides in cotton production are all ranked as moderately to acutely hazardous to human health. Aldicarb, the second best selling insecticide, can kill an adult who is exposed to it without proper safety measures.
  • Overuse Of Harmful Substances. When you add all the chemicals together used from start to finish, it takes ¼ pound of chemicals to produce 1 conventional cotton T-shirt. Holy moly!
  • Contaminates Food Supply. Pesticides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers used on cotton have been found to enter our food supply via cottonseed oil (one of the cheapest edible oils, a common ingredient in products like bread, cereal, crackers, cookies, salad dressings and margarine).
  • Contaminates Water Supply. Contamination of groundwater from fertilizers and pesticides used on cotton crops is a major problem. Nitrates in these fertilizers have been linked to “blue baby syndrome” in infants.
  • Water Waste. Conventional cotton requires intensive irrigation because of poor water retention in the soil due to mono-crop culture.
  • Poisoning Farmers. Cotton farmers and their families are surrounded by heavy chemicals for hours each day and may even bring residue into their homes. These chemicals are toxic, carcinogenic and dangerous to their health. The vast majority of the world’s cotton fields are in developing countries where farmers do not have the means to afford good safety measures.
  • Global Health Consequences. In Uzbekistan, pesticides have begun to decimate the environment and have been linked to a large increase of tuberculosis and cancer. According to the World Health Organization, 20 thousand people die of cancer and miscarriages every single year due to chemicals sprayed on conventional cotton. In the U.S. alone, over 10 thousand farmers die every year from cancers linked to farming chemicals.
  • Genetically Modified Products. When you buy conventional cotton, you support companies like Monsanto that create toxic products like RoundUp and who are known for bullying their farmers. In some countries, farmers are so in debt from the costs of GM (genetically modified) products that there are regular suicides. Monsanto’s failed promises about the higher yields and investment benefits of GM cotton seed have literally left thousands of farmers in despair.
  • Cheap For Your Wallet, Expensive Everywhere Else. The growing of conventional cotton is heavily subsidized by public funds. So it is cheap coming off the shelf, but the toll it takes on the environment, our health and the lives of farmers around the globe is much more expensive than it seems.
  • Harms Wildlife. The pesticides and toxins from cotton farms runoff into local waterways and contaminate the drinking water of local wildlife.
  • Wears Out Faster. All the chemicals used in growing and processing conventional cotton cause the fibers to weaken, so clothing made from this cotton does not last as long.

                          For more detailed information on the dangerous chemicals used in conventional cotton and their impact on the world, read this report by the Environmental Justice Foundation.

                          Organic Cotton Facts

                          • No Synthetic Chemicals. Organic cotton farming does not use synthetic pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers.
                          • Light Footprint. Growing cotton organically leaves a light footprint on the planet, the environment and human health. Organic farming encourages responsible water usage through crop rotation and stronger soil that retains water more efficiently.
                          • Safer For Farmers. Farmers who work on organic cotton fields are not exposed to the myriad of chemicals and harmful substances used on conventional crops.
                          • GMO Free. In order to be certified organic, organic cotton may not be grown with the use of any GMO products. When you buy organic cotton, you are NOT supporting the horrors of Monsanto or encouraging the continued use of toxic products on crops, in your clothes, in your food or in your water.
                          • Smart Pest Control. Organic farming maintains the important balance between pests and their natural predators through preserving the health of the soil and using natural pest control.
                          • Stronger Material. Organic cotton is stronger and lasts longer than conventional cotton because it has not been damaged by the use of harsh chemicals.
                          • Most people who are familiar with organic cotton agree that it is softer, more cozy and more comfortable than regular cotton.
                          • Safe For Sensitive Skin. People who suffer from skin allergies or babies who naturally have tender skin are able to wear organic cotton fabrics with little to no problems.
                          • 100% Eco-Friendly. Organic cotton is sustainable, renewable and biodegradable and the farming process significantly reduces soil and water pollution

                          The Bottom Line

                          It may not feel like you have a lot of influence on something as big as the cotton industry. But remember, as a consumer, you either fuel or defuel the demand for organic or conventional cotton products. What you buy, what you wear and the companies you support have direct impacts on what manufacturers choose to produce.

                          When you choose to use your dollars to support the organic cotton industry and when you educate others about your choice, you are sending a loud message to those in power that you want healthier, chemical-free, environmentally friendly products that are not only better for you and your children, but also farmers and their children around the globe.

                          Join the movement, paint a better picture for the future and try organic cotton today!