Your clothes could make you sick

No regulations for chemicals added to children's clothing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you go through a lot of trouble to avoid foods with chemicals, or even tap water that could contain toxins, are you going far enough to keep from getting sick?

Some doctors are now warning that what you're wearing could be dangerous to your health -- especially your children. In fact, while there are legal limitations for chemicals in children's toys, there are no regulations for children's clothing.

Jessica Kaye never expected to have a closet full of mostly cotton clothes. But a few years ago she started reading about what's in a lot of clothing, and she got scared.

"One of the big turning points was when I found out about a chemical that causes sterility. That made me buy different undergarments for my children," said Kaye.

Now her family wears clothes made mostly of organic materials.

"What I want to put on my body is not stuff with chemicals," Kaye told News4Jax.

But when you are wearing everyday, average clothing, that's exactly what Dr. Saman Soleymani, medical director from Avecina Medical, says you are doing.

"There's more than 8,000 chemicals in the textile industry, and that's insane," Soleymani explained. "We're so concerned with the chemicals we ingest, but people fail to realize -- with skin being the largest organ system -- that it absorbs everything it comes in contact with."

Soleymani points to a report released by Greenpeace, which detected a range of toxic chemicals in clothes. These include formaldehyde and phthalates. But you won't find these chemicals listed on tags.

What you will find, and what Soleymani, Greenpeace and many others investigating chemicals in clothing say you want to avoid, are things like rayon, polyester and spandex. These are all materials that could contain toxic chemicals.

Other signs clothes could have something harmful are when something is described as wrinkle-free, non-iron or moisture-wicking. Plus, when you're buying new clothes and they are shipped from overseas, they're often sprayed with a formula containing things like formaldehyde to keep them looking good.

"These kind of chemicals can cause rashes, asthma, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and the list goes on," Soleymani said.

And wearing these clothes, particularly in hot and humid climates like in Florida and Georgia, can be dangerous.

"So when the skin temperature rises, your pores open up significantly to let out sweat and toxins. So in the process, when you are opening that doorway, you are also absorbing three to four times more whatever could be touching your skin," Soleymani explained. "I always tell patients with skin issues or asthma to stay with fabrics that are 100 percent cotton."

However, avoiding clothes with chemicals can be very difficult. Kaye even created her own line of organic clothing called "Farm to Form." It's made of all-natural materials, but finding the fabrics without added chemicals proved extremely challenging.

"There are not too many companies here that do that. And even when they say 'Made in America,' the fabric could be made elsewhere, and they just printed here," said Kaye.

Soleymani said he's not surprised by this. He warns that clothes that come from anywhere but the United States are likely to have additional chemicals you won't know about.

"Ninety percent of textile comes from China, even the top brand names. That's even most of it that says US made," according to Soleymani. "They may have sewn it here, but the fabric comes from China."

To keep you and your family safe, you can try to find clothing made without synthetics. But no matter what type of material you buy, it's suggested that you wash clothes three times before you wear them.

Greenpeace found that when they retested clothes after washing them more than once, they contained only a fraction or none of the dangerous chemicals.

An organization called the Organic Clothing Alliance started in Jacksonville two years ago with the purpose of helping people find organic clothing for the entire family. You can find its helpful resources by clicking here.