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Why Conventional Cotton is Wasteful - And Dangerous

November 15, 2016

Why Conventional Cotton is Wasteful - And Dangerous

I get it. Cotton clothing is soft, durable, and relatively inexpensive. But, did you know?

Conventional cotton farming uses more pesticides than any other type of agricultural production. Many of these chemicals are harmful to the farmer and the environment. Plus, trace elements of these chemicals can be found in cotton products following production – including clothing for sensitive babies and toddlers.

Despite less than 3% of the world’s crop land being planted with cotton, it accounts for 24% of global insecticide use, and 11% of pesticide sales. At least 7 of the 15 most carcinogenic chemicals known to man are used to grow cotton. This high use of pesticides poisons our air, water, and soil, and has a severe impact on ecosystems, causing harm to plants and animals – to say nothing of the human beings who handle these dangerous chemicals every day. Because of this, beneficial insects in and around the cotton fields, those that are the natural enemies of pests, can be killed, while other animals eating these insects are also poisoned.

Conventional Cotton Wastes Water

Conventional cotton requires vast quantities of water. In fact, the production of just 2 pounds of cotton, which is about the amount needed to make a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, it can take more than 5280 gallons of water. On top of this, 73% of global cotton harvest comes from land which must be irrigated, drawing often scarce water from a river to be distributed over the irrigated area, and this directly affects the quantity and quality of the soil and water in the area.

Cotton Clothing Can Retain Chemicals

In addition to all of this, the processing stages of cotton production, including bleaching, dyeing, and finishing, use large amounts of toxic and hazardous chemicals. Up to 8 ounces of chemicals are typically used in the production of a single cotton T-shirt. Apart from being harmful to the environment, their use has potentially damaging consequences to the health of both field and factory workers, leading to tumors, cancers, cerebrovascular disease, and lung disease.

While many of these harmful chemicals are removed from the cotton fibers during production, through “washing”, by the time the fabric is ready for production an unknown number of them have bonded to the fiber. These and the other chemical residues affect people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. (

Also, people have developed allergic reactions, such as hives, to formaldehyde through skin contact with solutions on durable-press clothing containing formaldehyde. Allergic Contact Dermatitis develops after repeated allergen exposure to dyes and other chemicals and metals. These are real problems for real people, and should not be discounted as “imagination” or “over-sensitivity”.

Your new baby’s skin is also extremely sensitive to these chemicals, which is a great reason to dress her or him in organic cotton clothing. To be kept “in the loop” when new organic clothing designs for babies and toddlers are available, click here to sign up for the Simply Chickie Newsletter.


Check out some of our baby and toddler gift-sets and give the gift of eco-friendly clothing to the new baby in your life:

Baby Shower Gift Sets

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