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THE ADVANTAGES OF
NATURAL FIBER CLOTHING

In the 1990s, consumers are saying "no" to conventional dyes, "wrinkle-free" treatments and pesticide-doused fabrics that are harsh on clothes, not to mention your health and the environment. Many are making the switch to natural, breathable, chemical-free alternatives. Hemp, organic cotton, flax and tencel fabrics, in a growing variety of styles and colors, are some of the options now found in mail-order catalogs and retail stores.

According to James Liebman, staff scientists for the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in San Francisco, the U.S. grows 13 million acres of cotton each year, the bulk of which is doused with pesticides and insecticides. Liebman says that many acute pesticide poisonings are associated with the chemicals used in the cultivation of conventional cotton. In 1995, Endosulfan, one of many chemicals used in modern cotton growing, was responsible for killing 250,000 fish along a 16-mile stretch of Alabama's Big Nance Creek when rainfall washed the insecticide into the river. Endosulfan is also a suspected carcinogen-- known to be toxic to wildlife and people.

Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown without the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators or defoliants. Instead, farmers rely on organic fertilizers, crop rotation and "integrated pest management," the use of "beneficial" insects to naturally control species which damage crops. Farmers also employ human labor to cut weeds. During production, the cotton gins are cleared of residue from conventional cotton before organically grown cotton is introduced. To earn the organic label, cotton must follow this rule and be grown on soil that has been free of synthetic pesticides for at least three years.

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By: Anne W. Wilke. Article originally published in E/The Environmental Magazine . Anne W. Wilke, a former editor of E , is a freelance journalist based in Ohio.



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