When people think of healthy living it typically involves their diet and physical activity. While both are very important, I’ve come to learn that what we wear may impact health as well. We’ve become so focused on the here and now that we’ve lost sight of the dangers of things that could severely affect our bodies.
It’s astonishing that protections were only enacted just slightly longer than a decade ago to safeguard us from such a threat. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed in 2008 requiring manufacturers to drastically limit or reduce the use of harmful chemicals in their products. The main purpose of this act was to protect children from such exposure which has been shown to lead to developmental issues.
Although the risks associated with these chemicals are greater for children, adults are certainly not immune. No amount of exercising or eating healthy will offset the negative effects. The best way to avoid these hazardous chemicals is through awareness. Understanding the importance of CPSIA will help with that.
The Top Two Hazardous Chemicals Outlined in CPSIA
For those of you interested in reading CPSIA in its entirety, you can find a 63 page PDF located here. The details within the document thoroughly explain the regulations and CPSIA Testing requirements. The most concerning of which relates to lead and phthalates and the harm they may cause.
The Dangers of Lead
At this point, most people are well aware of the health hazards of lead which include death. I remember as a small child being told never to eat paint chips for fear of exposure to lead. I mean, eating paint chips in general sounds like a bad idea but I now understand the concern as a parent myself.
Before the passing of CPSIA lead in children’s products did not have any limits. Since then, that limit was initially 600 parts per million (ppm) to 100 ppm a few years later. However, even with the threat of massive fines for violating these regulations, some apparel companies do not comply. Perhaps not out of pure malice, but ignorance of the law is no excuse either.
Other than death, major health problems like high blood pressure, kidney failure, and heart disease are possible with long-term exposure. Therefore, if you have any favorite articles of clothing or accessories make sure you’re fully aware of any toxic chemicals.
The Dangers of Phthalates
Phthalates are chemicals that improve the durability of plastics. They are actually quite common in everything from vinyl flooring to shampoos. As it pertains to CPSIA, there are a few phthalates with restricted concentration levels while others are exempt.
The health effects of these chemicals are wide-ranging. Researchers have attributed them to ADHD, asthma, breast cancer, behavioral issues, and more. So concerning are these effects that Harvard published an interview with a professor of reproductive physiology with his analysis and recommendations.
The professor, Frederick Lee Hisaw, references animal studies done with phthalates that showed some alarming results. These include affected mothers whose male offspring have defects of the reproductive tract. Additional concerns detail the possibility of brain development problems for unborn children. These concerns may lead to learning difficulties, inattentiveness, and the aforementioned behavioral problems.
An Example of Non-Compliance By a Major Retailer
Urban Outfitters, a hipster apparel and accessories company, came under some scrutiny several years ago relating to lead in their products. It seems like they never suffered any legal repercussions back then but now they face a lawsuit for another reason. This lawsuit relates to failure to disclose toxic chemicals in their Journal Snap Binder Planner including Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate.
Interestingly, the suit doesn’t reference CPSIA but rather California’s Proposition 65 where it was filed. Also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Proposition 65 requires manufacturers to provide warning labels on consumer products that may cause cancer. The warning also is necessary if such products have the potential to cause birth defects.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see CPSIA come into play during litigation and perhaps involve additional charges. I doubt any consequence other than a fine will happen and business will continue as normal. Still, some accountability is necessary as the average consumer has no idea about the dangers of phthalates. I definitely didn’t before my research.
Should You Worry About What You Wear?
In most cases, major retailers and manufacturers take great care to ensure the safety of their products. There are exceptions as noted above. However, if you enjoy using and wearing custom apparel and accessories make sure you do your research. Small companies and individuals probably aren’t fully investigating all of the materials they use for their products. Furthermore, their limited reach and distribution means that any harmful chemicals might take years to come to light.
If you’re shopping online and see a product that fits your style, don’t be afraid to email the merchant and ask about the materials used. Make sure to check out all of the reviews too as some savvy buyers might mention the use of chemicals. While your immediate health is important, don’t neglect the effects such products may have in the long-term.