Plastic Clothes

When I went to the customs in Germany to receive my stamp for tax refund before I go back to China, the officer was puzzled and asked me to open my suitcase. There was nothing wrong with the items themselves, but when he saw a collection of environmental testing chemicals and lab equipment, he felt that he wanted to confirm: "This is really for private use?"

Today was a hazy day and I spent a bit of time sorting out the equipment and played around with it: radioactive exposure is low, tab water in general parameters quite good, air quality disastrous. But then wow: formaldehyde! Where could this come from? Finally I found, that it comes from a few chemical fiber textiles I have bought in China. Formaldehyde is banned also in China, but N-methylol derivatives are used as reactant cross-linking agents to give the fabric shape stability and a "high grade finish". As catalysts for this process dialylated tin derivatives are also used. The first is known as a strong carcinogen, the second causes allergic reactions. Specially Chinese low to mid range lady fashion is entirely made of "plastic". Also many outdoor clothes, as they are supposed to be light, water resistant and fast drying and sports clothes of course too.

If a dress is supposed to set a heart on fire, then be careful, because without organophosphate substances as flame retardant this could be even dangerous. Even I have never witnesses that this kind of spark set clothes on fire, I remember three incidents in which chemical fibers caused severe injury: a cook who spilled boiling water on is legs in the army, a Nylon camping tent which caught fire and a car accident where the vehicle caught fire. In the first case I was providing first aid and wanted to cut open the trousers, but had to find that it had melted into the burned skin. In the two other cases any help came too late. Of course this was not just a result of chemical fiber clothing, but it made it worse. I also remember a comment of a Naval officer, who said that about 30 % of the men they lost in the South Atlanik War in the sinking of the Battleship Belgrano died in the flames because they Uniforms were switched to cheaper material before. 

Now this sounds a bit an extreme reason why to avoid "plastic clothes". And also the health effects of many chemicals used are disputed. So, it might not be "too bad". But I just ask myself: why? Plastic clothes look cheap (even they not always are). They do not breathe well and get stingy easily. Sure, you can reduce that by adding biocides as anti-microbal agent to make them stink later. Antimicobic material for lingery, for example. How sexy can it get? How about just taking a shower from time to time and apply normal procedures of personal hygiene?

Sure, it is not easy to make something "pretty" out of chemical fibers, but often they are choosen because they are easy care. But are they really? Just a little bit too high ironing temperature and they are distroyed forever. Repairing is either not possible or not worth it. I understand the advantages of chemical fibers for outdoor clothing quite well, but even the "easy care properties" of cotton, wool, linen and silk are also very good. Just hang them on a tree and let them dry. And even they are a bit ruffled. At least they smell like fresh are and not like an oil rig.