Yet another report has come out this week about the toxic nature of seemingly everything in China – this time, children’s clothes.
We’ll leave out the gory technical details – which you masochists can read for yourself in this Greenpeace investigation of garment factories in China – but suffice it to say it’s enough to make you forget about Beijing’s air, water and food problems for a minute and turn your parental radar towards questions of whether your kid’s jammies and cartoon character-emblazoned t-shirts are slowly killing them as well.
So what to do? Short of joining a nudist colony in some faraway tropical locale, we’re all going to need clothes. So with that in mind, here are some common-sense tips at least mitigate some parental fears about toxic clothing, culled from the Greenpeace report and this article from the helpful Washington Toxics Coalition:
Wash before wearing: Always wash new clothes multiple times before wearing, to remove as much of the gunk they put on stuff to make it look good in the shop as possible. Sites we’ve trolled all seem to indicate that simply washing once is not enough – the more cautious/paranoid (depending on your perspective) recommend washing up to 20 times before wearing.
Choose light colored clothing: Greenpeace says dark and brightly colored clothing typically requires more dyes and fixing agents. Light colored clothing is less likely to contain these chemicals.
Go for hand-me-downs: Hey, why not choose used clothing? Pre-worn gear means the item has likely already received multiple washings.
Avoid chemical fibers and functional clothing: And here we’ll quote directly from the Greenpeace report: “The production of chemical fibers (such as polyester, acrylic fibers etc.) and functional fabrics (with waterproof, sunscreen and no-ironing functions) may involve the use of toxic chemicals like antimony and PFCs."
Avoid thick printing on clothing: If the princess on daughter’s blouse or the car on your son’s t-shirt has a thick appearance, that’s a tell-tale sign that the design likely contains plasticizers, aka phthalates (no need to Google those terms — suffice it to say they’re things you don’t want on your kid). If your child absolutely must be emblazoned by a cartoon character, select clothes that have flat and thin printed designs.
Avoid strong smelling items: Need we say more? Natural, untreated fibers will not emit strong odors. If the fancy duds you’re about to buy emit some sort of smell, walk away.
For those of you looking for some safe shopping for kids gear, you could do worse than to check out the recent proliferation of natural clothing shops that have popped up in various Beijing malls.
Nature Colored (http://www.naturecolored.cn, site in Chinese only) offers a range of natural clothing as well as bed and bathware, and has locations in in the Kid’s Town area of Solana and the 3rd Floor of Indigo.