Synthetic and natural fabric – organic and conventional Let us first understand the different types of fabrics that exist and are readily available. All fabrics are obtained from fibres - fibres can be from artificial or natural sources. Synthetic fibres are manmade fibres that are usually prepared from raw materials called petrochemicals. They include nylon, acrylics, polyurethane, and polypropylene. Millions of tons of these fibres are produced all over the world each year. These are made from nonrenewable resources and the production of these causes a lot of pollution. Synthetic fibres are also non-biodegradable. The most commonly used synthetic fibres are rayon (obtained from wood pulp), nylon (obtained from coal, water and air) and polyester (obtained from coal, water, air and petroleum).
Natural fibre clothing is made from natural materials that have been used to make clothing for centuries. These include cotton, linen, silk, wool, hemp etc. Natural fibres can be further categorised into organic and conventional depending on the methods of cultivation and processing used. Conventional crops refer to those that are grown using synthetic and toxic substances (including fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides etc.). Most of the cotton production in the world is of conventional cotton. Apart from extensive use of hazardous chemicals, conventional cotton is grown using genetically modified (GM) seeds too.
On the other hand, organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and hazardous agrichemicals and artificial fertilizers. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and help maintain biodiversity. Third-party certification bodies verify that producers use only methods and materials allowed within the prescribed framework of organic production including non-toxic dyes and colours.
Toxic dyes are associated with respiratory diseases and are carcinogenic in nature. They also have a detrimental effect on aquatic environment by decreasing the photosynthetic activity and leading to oxygen deficiency in water. Some dyes are known to enter human body and cause DNA damage. Children are particularly at risk of these.
The health and environmental hazards of synthetic and conventional, natural fabric
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