Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Toxic Clothing Affects Everyone

In September 2016, American Airlines rolled out new uniforms for more than 70,000 employees — the first uniform overhaul in 30 years. Soon after, reports started coming in from about 100 pilots and 3,000 flight attendants that the uniforms were making them sick. A variety of symptoms were reported (some occurring only while the personnel were wearing the uniforms), such as rashes, itching, eye swelling and a general feeling of malaise.1

Twin Hill, a unit of Tailored Brands Inc., which supplied the uniforms, has conducted testing, with nothing suspicious showing up that may cause the symptoms, and so far American Airlines has not recalled the uniforms, although they've given some employees alternative pieces and allowed them to wear their old uniforms while the matter is sorted out.2 While this may seem like an unusual story, it's not unheard of for clothing to make people sick.

In fact, the average piece of clothing not only may be made from potentially allergenic materials (like latex, Lycra or spandex) but also may be contaminated with a variety of chemicals used during the manufacturing process.

The clothing industry is actually one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and the textiles they produce may be laced with irritants and disease-causing chemicals, which is one of the reasons why it's so important to wash new clothes before wearing them. Even then, however, it may not make the clothing entirely safe.

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