New investigation lays bare how textile firms add dangerous chemicals to clothing for fragrance to boost profits

New investigation lays bare how textile firms add dangerous chemicals to clothing for fragrance to boost profits


In his first documentary film production, Jon Whelan, a single dad after his wife died from breast cancer, presents overwhelming evidence that dangerous chemicals are added to products by design.

As he discusses in this interview about his documentary “Stink!,” available on Netflix and YouTube, fragrances and scents are a dangerous, yet purposeful additions to products you use daily. Your sense of smell is one of the most primal of your five senses. It is a key to survival, is often the first warning of safety or danger and is linked to memory.

In fact, a powerful attraction to fragrances is manipulated by advertisers and marketers in order to sell clothing, personal care products and laundry products. You can recognise up to 10,000 different smells and, according to Stuart Firestein, of Columbia University, this system is very closely connected to the limbic system, said to contain your most basic drives.

A study in 2015 published in Chemosensory Perception investigated how odour-evoked memories influence consumers’ perception of a product. Researchers found fragrances evoking stronger personal emotional memories were preferred by the study participants.

It is not surprising scent is powerfully connected to emotion and memory and drives buying decisions.

Unfortunately, companies add toxic fragrances to mask the odour of noxious chemicals and as scent branding to acquire new customers and keep customers. The documentary film “Stink!” was triggered when Whelan purchased a pair of pyjamas from the children’s clothing company Justice for his daughter.

After opening the package, he found a weird smell. Whelan called the company to be sure the clothing was safe but was stonewalled by company representatives. Returning to the store, he found all of the packaged pyjamas had the same odour. At this point, he decided to tape the conversations he had with Justice and other companies and began delving into the addition of chemicals to clothing and personal care products.

In a telling conversation with Procter and Gamble, manufacturer of a long list of cleaning and personal care items, including Crest toothpaste, Dawn dish soap, Pampers diapers, Tide laundry detergent and Pantene shampoo, the representative claimed they didn’t add a carcinogenic chemical to their products, it was just “there.” Here’s a transcript of the conversation Whelan had:

Whelan: “I read an article online yesterday and it said something that if it has a chemical in it called 1-4-dioxane it might cause cancer. I just wanted to be sure that it’s not true.”

Representative: “It’s not something we add to the product, OK, it’s something that’s in the product.”

Whelan: “Can you tell me who adds it then?”

Representative: “Pardon me?”

Whelan: “You said you didn’t add it. I was wondering who does add it?”

Representative: “It’s in all of the ingredients. You know what I mean?”

Whelan: “No I don’t.”

Representative: “OK, OK, how can I say this … You know if you do 1,200 loads of wash a day, it’s still at a safe level.”

As with exposure to many different toxins, one exposure at a low level may not trigger an immediate health condition, but what about repetitive or chronic exposure?

Imagine smoking one cigarette and claiming the product had no health effects since you didn’t immediately get sick.

The effect from toxins is cumulative and can add up quickly when you’re exposed to chemicals in your food, furniture, air and clothing, all at once and on a daily basis.

Whelan believes if the legislature won’t ban a chemical that regulators know causes cancer, then it may be nearly impossible to fight for transparency and health protection against a highly-motivated and richly-funded industry destined to forfeit profits if they are forced to stop using cheaper, damaging and dangerous chemicals.

For instance, scientists and regulators know the dangers to consumers from asbestos. This material, used for insulation for decades, is known to trigger the development of mesothelioma. Whelan uses the example of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in his documentary, stating exposure to these has an inverted dose-response curve.

In other words, the danger is higher with lower-level exposure over long periods of time. Your exposure occurs with the use of personal care products, food packaging materials and clothing. Vague arguments and claims have been used to dispute reports showing the use of toxic chemicals may be poisoning adults and children, causing damage beginning even before birth.

Following an op-ed piece in The New York Times by Nicholas Kristof, the industry-friendly American Council on Science and Health claimed Kristoff would have flunked eighth-grade science, saying:

“Look at all these lethal things: toothpaste, soap, shower curtains. It’s amazing we all aren’t dead yet.

“Mr Kristof’s ‘research’ – if you can even call it that – relied heavily on well-known anti-science activists, such as the Environmental Working Group.

“Mr Kristof has demonstrated time and again that he is entirely ignorant of the basic principles of chemistry and toxicology.”

However, the American Academy of Paediatrics, a group of over 65,000 well-educated and science-based paediatricians in the US, agree with Kristoff and is asking parents to limit their children’s exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in plastic.

They warn these chemicals, such as phthalates, nitrates and bisphenol, may damage children’s health for years to come. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) has even suggested a ban on endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be needed to protect the health of future generations. Their research is one of the most comprehensive studies on different disrupting chemicals to date.

Dr Leonardo Trasande, an expert in children’s environmental health, believes children are more susceptible due to their dose exposure. And, as noted by Dr Claire McCarthy, a paediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, “Because the exposure is small and gradual we don’t even realise it’s happening.”

Whelan believes the solution should be mandatory transparency so companies would make better decisions about what they use in their products and consumers could make informed decisions about what they buy.

Instead, companies are operating under the honour system set up by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while fighting to keep cheap chemicals in their products so they can be made inexpensively, thereby protecting profits.

Unfortunately, the public pays for these cheaper products on the back end by spending thousands treating diseases triggered by overexposure to chemicals, which can build up in your system when you’re exposed to multiple products, such as personal care items, new furniture and carpeting and even clothing.

Whelan points out that the world knows formaldehyde causes cancer, yet manufacturers are not removing it from their products. In fact, the US was caught using products with heavy levels of formaldehyde in environmentally damaged areas.

For instance, trailer homes deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina were found to emit high levels of formaldehyde gas.

In testing, 519 trailer and mobile homes were nearly 40 times customary exposure levels, triggering breathing difficulties, nose bleeds and persistent headaches. California has taken a more proactive approach to the health of its citizens.

  • The Defender report / By Mercola
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