How “Fast Fashion” is Destroying Ourselves & Our Earth.
By: Ciera Kemp
The Hazards of Cotton and Polyester
Fast Fashion poses a serious risk to our health and the environment due to its high Cotton and Polyester make-up. Cotton and Polyester make up 90% of the clothing that is sold in the United States. The Guardian reported that there is enough water used to grow India’s cotton exports in 2013 that could supply 100 liters of water every day for a year to 85% of the country’s 1.24 billion residents.
Polyester, on the other hand, is a synthetic material derived from petroleum, a byproduct responsible for air pollution and known for being a carcinogen. Petroleum, commonly known as petroleum jelly is popular in the United States. The FDA reports that Petroleum Jelly meets the criteria of being safe to use in the United States, however, the European Union has banned petroleum. The European Chemicals Agency (ECA for short) cites that the European Union has classified petroleum jelly to cause cancer, resulting in its ban.
Each American, on average, throws away 80 pounds of clothing annually. This exposes How Fast Fashion has created an illusion that clothing is meant to be disposable. The desirability of having something new and cheap has outweighed the guilt or negative implications of wasting clothing on Americans.
The Impact of Pesticides
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 84 million pounds of pesticides were used on 14.4 million acres of cotton crops in the year 2000.
The EPA has categorized 7 of the 15 pesticides used on cotton crops as either possible or known carcinogens. These pesticides contaminate water and soil and are toxic to many species of birds, insects, fish, and other plants that were not being targeted initially. The endless production of new clothing requires these cheap materials to be mass-manufactured, resulting in more crops that need more toxic pesticides.
The Collateral Damage
When spraying these pesticides, “drift” occurs. This is when the product hits non-targeted areas. Drift can account for between 2-25% of misplaced chemicals which can travel between only inches, to several hundred miles, resulting in the contamination of non-targeted soils and the damage to plants and other species. These chemicals also get evaporated into the air and have been frequently detected in rainwater, groundwater, fog, air, and snow. The long-term effects can cause an originally flourishing biological population of plants, insects, and animals to struggle to survive.