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10 Ways Your Clothes May Be Harming Your Health

By Diane Small

Your skin is breaking out in a rash. Must be stress, you think. You’ve got the sniffles. You always seem to have a toenail fungus. Probably something genetic. You come down with the sniffles. It must have been that guy in your office with a cold, right?

Wrong. The surprising truth is that the reason you may be feeling under the weather could possibly be blamed on your wardrobe.

We often give great consideration to what we eat, and even what we put on our skin. But after reading these different ways your clothes may be harming your health, you’ll probably start thinking twice about what you wear.

1. Underwire Bras

They may work a treat to ‘lift and separate’, but underwire bras come with a range of potential health risks, including skin problems, such as cuts and punctures from the wire, headache and neck pains, blocked milk ducts for nursing mothers, indigestion and chest pain, and other problems.

Even Chinese traditional medicine practitioners advise against underwire bras as the metal impedes the flow of energy or chi in the body’s meridians, and there’s also concern that the underwires may attract EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) and increase your exposure to radiation. But perhaps worst of all, studies have shown that women who wear bras very frequently (even to bed!) increase their risk of breast cancer significantly. You can see the studies here and here. 

2. Vegan Shoes

Vegan shoes may be cruelty-free for animals, but not so much for your feet. Most of the materials that comprise vegan shoes is made of basically plastic, which, unlike leather, doesn’t breathe. The resulting dark, warm, moist environment is the perfect place for bacterial and fungal growth.

Another deterrent to wearing plasticky shoes is the fact that they are so rigid. With a plastic shoe, you don’t have flexibility. Feet naturally swell in the afternoon – a person can go from a size 7 to a size 9 – and plastic shoes don’t expand, so they end up cutting off circulation to the foot.

If you can’t stand the idea of wearing leather and want a healthy shoe, consider purchasing one in a breathable fabric like cork or Piñatex.

3. Oversized Bags

While they might be convenient, oversized tote bags can cause a lot of back and shoulder problems.

When walking with a big, bulky handbag, we tend to raise our opposite shoulder to compensate for the weight. According to the Express Tribune, this may throw your sway off-kilter and lead to a collapsed foot arch corresponding to your weighted shoulder, and a curved spine.

Constantly using such heavy bags can ultimately lead to shoulder and neck pain, a trapped nerve, radiating pain into the arms, arthritis, chronic back pain and carpel tunnel syndrome. The solution is easy, though: swap your tote for a backpack instead.

4. Dirty Clothes

We often forget to wash our outdoor or heavier clothing, but think about this: when you wear your winter coat on public transport, you’re sitting on a pretty dirty seat. Then, you get to a restaurant and put your coat on the back of your chair – but the hem drags on the dirty floor. You get home and throw your coat on the sofa, and the cat falls asleep on it. Imagine how much bacteria and how many germs are on that garment, and yet we very rarely wash winter coats.

As a result, they’re virtually teeming with viruses and bacteria that can make you sick with colds or the flu. To avoid getting sick, wash your outdoor clothing regularly.

5. Outdoor Shoes Indoors

There’s a reason many cultures around the world insist you take your outdoor shoes off in a house and put on some slippers instead. When you tread in your home with outdoor shoes, you’re dragging in toxic chemicals from car pollution, chewed gum, traces of fecal matter, spit, vomit and other horrors that litter the streets. Even if they seem to be clean, there’s more grossness out there than you’d think! And whatever you track inside resides on your floor, where kids and pets play. Take them off!

6. Laundry Detergent

Got weird bumps, redness, and rashes on your skin? Your laundry routine could be to blame. Detergents are ridden with toxic dyes, fragrances and chemicals that clean, deodorise, and disinfect. These ingredients can trigger a reaction in those with allergies, eczema, or sensitive skin. Choose an all natural, unscented laundry detergent instead, and  use the “extra rinse” setting on your washing machine. Finally, be sure to keep your washing machine clean and well-serviced so it’s lint, dust and mold free.

7. Synthetic Skimpies

Lacy and diaphanous undies may look sexy, but what they can do to you ‘down there’ is far from it! Non-breathable materials like polyester and Spandex trap moisture and can lead to urinary tract and yeast infections. And a cotton crotch alone isn’t enough to allow evaporation of moisture that breeds bacteria and helps maintain a healthy vaginal acidity. If you’re prone to urinary and yeast infections, make all of your undies (organic) cotton ones.

8. Vintage Clothing

Thrift shopping may be fun, but it’s not always sanitary. Whilst some upscale ‘retro’ stores will wash or steam clean clothing before putting it on display, the average thrift store will not. So, when you’re digging through the bins of used garments, you’re potentially exposing yourself to a plethora of bacteria, parasites, and fungi, which can cause a variety of diseases. Buying vintage clothing is a great, earth friendly way to shop, but note: substantial heat is typically required to kill off any organisms, and experts recommend tumbling clothing with suspected ticks and other bugs in the dryer for 45 minutes before tossing them into the washer.

9. Toxic Fabrics

Man-made fabrics like polyester, nylon, rayon, and acrylic simply cannot be made without loads of toxic dyes and chemicals. Anything that claims to be stain resistant, insect-repelling, flame-retarding, waterproof, anti-static, anti-cling, or anti-shrink is very likely to be highly toxic indeed. Wrinkle-free clothing may be finished with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that’s not regulated in the USA.

“Those chemicals may separate from the clothes, set up shop on your skin, and eventually enter your bloodstream,” says Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. The very least damage such clothing can cause would be itching or rashes, but some chemicals in clothing (such as dimethylformamide) could be linked to liver damage, and the pesticides you absorb from wearing non-organic cotton (especially if it’s worn close to your breasts) can lead to breast cancer. The solution? Opt for natural fibers, ideally organic, such as cotton, wool, silk, flax, and hemp instead.

10. High Heels

Most women who have worn them know that high heels don’t feel great. They’re a major cause of bunions, ingrown toenails, callouses, and sprained ankles. But did you know they can also cause chronic health issues, like shortened Achilles tendons and lower back pain? We know they look awesome, so if you’re really a lover of the higher heel, ensure you only wear the shoes for a few hours at a time, and take a few breaks to stretch your calf muscles.

 

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