Why You should Not Wear chemically Dyed Clothing
Do you check the kind of dye used when you buy a clothing item? Make that a habit. Prevent the harm chemical dyes can cause.
Flowers, insects, minerals, mollusks, roots, vegetables, and wood. Do you think they have anything in common other than being natural products?
They actually do. These were the sources of our clothes dyes. Until 1856.
A Discovery by Accident
William Henry Perkin, an English chemist, was only 18 years old in 1856. He was, however, researching with synthetic quinine. His aim was to find a malaria cure.
What he accidentally discovered was a synthetic dye. Perkins created a reddish-purple dye from a derivative of coal tar. “Mauve” was the name he gave to that dye.
It wasn’t a stable color, but. It faded in sunlight, or when washed in water. That’s how mauve came to signify a shade of pale purple.
But researches jumped in to experiment with synthetic dyes that would be stable. Today, synthetic dyes dominate the clothing and textile industries overwhelmingly.
Natural dyes hardly offer any competition.
Synthetic vs. Natural Dyes: A Comparison That You Should Understand
Synthetic dyes have several commercial advantages over natural dyes:
- The production process of synthetic dyes is easier and considerably less expensive.
- It is difficult to get the same consistency in different batches of natural dyes. Synthetic dyes pose no such problems.
- Synthetic dyes are more colorfast than natural dyes.
- Natural dyes do not work for synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester.
Hence the domination of synthetic dyes in the textiles industry.
The global market value of synthetic dyes in 2019 was US$31.97 billion. The projection is that it will reach US$50.38 billion by 2023. The predicted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 13%.
The projected CAGR for the natural dyes market during 2019-2024 is 11%. It will generate about US$5 billion by 2024.
This dismal picture even after strict government regulations have renewed interest in natural dyes. Because of the environmental costs of synthetic dyes.
The commercial preference for synthetic dyes is ruining our environment. It also damages human health in the process.
Why Are Synthetic Dyes In Clothes Harmful To You?
The environmental costs of synthetic dyes are rather high. What harms the environment poses threats to us in the long run. Directly or indirectly.
Synthetic Dyes Consume Immense Quantities Of Water
The textile industry is one of the highest consumers of water. Most of the water is necessary for the dyeing and finishing operations.
We are already facing the hazard of groundwater depletion and desertification. High industrial water usage enhances the threat of a dry world.
In addition, remnants of the water used in synthetic dyeing get released into our water bodies.
The Environmental Costs of Synthetic Dyes
Dye wastewater has become one of the major pollutants of our water bodies and the environment.
Rivers and other water bodies often carry visible traces of synthetic dyes in areas that have large textile dyeing factories. That is an aesthetic pollutant, of course. There are other more serious damages.
Some dyes never degrade in water. Others that do release harmful substances like acids and alkalis into the water.
Some dyes are especially toxic and mutagenic. They also block light and hamper photosynthetic activity. That affects aquatic plant life, which causes a deficiency of dissolved oxygen, in turn.
The entire aquatic biota gets endangered in the process.
The damage caused by a particular source of textile wastewater depends on several variables. Chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) are two such variables.
The pH and salinity levels of the dyes used are other variables. Despite the variations, typical pollutants in textile wastewater include:
- Recalcitrant organic compounds
- Chlorinated compounds
Azo Dyes Are The Most Dangerous
Azo dyes constitute the most commonly used synthetic dyes. They represent 60-80% of synthetic dyes and pigments.
They are also among the most toxic.
Anything between 15-50% of azo dyes do not bind to the fabric, finding their way into the wastewaters.
They get released into our water bodies. When recycled for irrigation, the azo compounds in the contaminated water damages microbial communities in the soil.
They also have a negative influence on germination and plant growth.
How Synthetic Dyes Harm Human Health
Water contaminated by textile effluents gets used for irrigation. The soil gets affected in the process. So do the agricultural products of such soil.
When we consume these products, the toxins enter our systems. The effects are more severe than we imagine.
Fish gills can assimilate the remainders of metal dyes released into water bodies. Through the food chain, these elements can enter the human body.
Metal dye residues can cause a range of pathogenic conditions in human organs.
Textile Dye Remnants Can Cause Cancer
Azo dyes form carcinogenic substances during their process of degradation.
Exposure to decomposed azo dye residues can cause cancer in humans. Bladder, kidney, and liver cancer are the usual results of long-term exposure to degraded azo dye remnants.
Other Typical Health Hazards
The negative health impact of synthetic dyes is most readily visible in people working in the sector.
There are studies to show that workers in dye factories routinely develop the following health problems:
- Nasal Problems
Synthetic Dyes Cause Allergies
People are often allergic to specific chemicals. Unexpected allergic reactions often result from the presence of such chemicals in the synthetic dyes used in one’s clothing.
Sulfur, for example. Many people are allergic to sulfur. If they unknowingly wear clothes that have used sulfur dyes, they may have allergic reactions.
Headaches, nausea, and skin rashes are typical allergic responses caused by toxic chemicals present in synthetic dyes.
Why Are Textile Effluents Cleaning Norms Ineffective?
Recent times have witnessed a growing recognition of the heavy price of environmental decay. Consumers worldwide have also become more aware of the health hazards caused by synthetic dyes.
As a result, regulatory pollution control bodies in many countries have introduced limits on the polluting effluents dyeing plants can release.
Wastewater treatment of textile dyes still remains a challenge.
Firstly, the regulatory provisions in developing and underdeveloped countries are not as stringent as in industrialized countries. Also, regulatory norms do not get strictly monitored in all countries.
There are other inbuilt challenges in the wastewater cleaning process from chemical dye factories.
- Physicochemical treatment processes require too much space.
- Such processes lead to sludge formation, which adds to the disposal problems.
- Biological treatment processes involve the presence of toxic metals in the effluents.
- Many of the compounds used in synthetic dyes are not biodegradable. That means they are not amenable to biological treatment processes.
- Biological treatment processes are considerably time-consuming.
These inherent problems in the treatment of wastewaters from the textiles industry result in flouting treatment rules. Especially in the middle- and low-income countries.
That leads to the entire chain of environmental pollution that we have been discussing. It also exposes us to a range of health hazards. Including cancer that can kill us.
Keep Yourself And Others Safe: Switch To Naturally Dyed Clothes
Growing consumer awareness and determined consumer actions have forced many industries to change. There are examples of businesses being forced to put environmental commitments ahead of profits.
It is time for us to force the textile industry to adopt natural dyes instead of synthetic ones.
There is already a growing body of eco-conscious consumers who insist on buying clothes that use only natural dyes. We need to swell those numbers.