How safe is your family from the toxins found in the synthetic yarns you’ve purchased to create beautiful things? How safe is it to have all that yarn stashed away in a corner of your home building toxins in your air?
I haven’t. As a matter of fact, if I like the way a yarn feels when I’m working with it, I give very little thought to what’s in it. Well, I’m now beginning to think it would be a good idea to consider my environment and what part my yarn plays in its toxicity.
All yarn artists have a stash. In that stash are many yarns. However, in that stash are also toxins that were used to manufacture the yarn. Wondering ‘how safe is my yarn’ should lead you to check the synthetic fibers first.
The reason I start with synthetic fibers is they are fully manufactured fibers. The danger with them is they are manufactured using toxins that cannot be washed out, making them a potential health hazard. Now before you panic about your yarn stash, keep in mind many of our clothes are made of synthetic fibers and teaming with toxins.
“Chemicals are applied to yarns and other materials because man-made fabrics are complex, and getting soft yarn out of raw materials takes chemical manipulation. For example:”
- Chemicals are used to make yarns suitable for spinning and weaving.
- A formaldehyde product is applied with heat to prevent shrinkage so it is trapped in the fiber permanently.
- Petrochemical polluting dyes are used for color.
- Chemicals are added to make yarns softer, wrinkle-free, fire-retardant, moth-repellant and stain-resistant.
- Commonly used chemicals include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dioxin-producing bleach.
- Nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals, whose production creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that’s 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- Rayon is made from wood pulp that has been treated with chemicals, including caustic soda and sulphuric acid.
- Dye fixatives used in yarns often come from heavy metals and pollute water systems.
- Acrylic yarns are polycrylonitriles, which may be carcinogenic.
- Yarn treated with flame-retardant chemicals emit formaldehyde gas.
Chemicals used in synthetic yarn production have been linked to health problems such as cancer, immune system damage, behavioral problems and hormone disruption.
Synthetic Fibers to Avoid
If possible stay away from the following fabrics and instead use more natural options: Acrylic, Polyester, Rayon, Acetate, Triacetate, Nylon, Anything labeled static-resistant, wrinkle-resistant, permanent-press, no-iron, stain-proof or moth-repellant
What can you do?
As a yarn artist there are a few things you can do to limit your exposure but being aware is a first step. It may cost you more in the beginning, but in the long run it will be best for you, your family and your clients if you do even one of the following suggestions.
- Use more natural and organic fibers such as cotton, hemp, wool, silk, linen and cashmere
- Once you’ve completed a project, wash is at least 3 times with a non-toxic detergent before wearing or packaging
- Store your synthetic stash in a well ventilated area away from your main living area so you are less exposed to the toxins and “let it air” by storing in a “breathable” container instead of a plastic bin.
Being aware is the beginning. Do you have any other ideas of how to cut the toxic effects of synthetic yarns in your stash? Please share your ideas with us in the comments.