How many times have you bought a pair of jeans that left their colour on your skin? When you buy a product do you look at the label? I do not do it often but, after some research, I have discovered why I should do it.

Lee Euler, editor of Cancer Defeated! newsletter, explained her own experience about a beautiful set of sheets from an expensive shop. They were supposed to be 100 per cent cotton but she developed a very strong allergy to them. This happened because many of the products we buy are made of synthetic material.

Today’s clothing is manufactured using 8,000 synthetic chemicals. A hundred years ago, clothes were made of natural fibres like flax, cotton, wool and silk. After the development of synthetic materials, there are different types to be aware of: Acrylic, Spandex and Olefin – that are the mainstay of sportswear and swim suits – and Polyester.

Clothes contain toxins like formaldehyde, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals to provide ‘non-iron’ and ‘non-wrinkle’ qualities. When toxins are absorbed through your skin, they bypass your liver and you can get ill. It is interesting to know that petrochemical fibres restrict and suffocate your skin. In fact, for half a century, skin and chemicals have been creating problems like infertility, respiratory diseases and cancer. Additionally, rashes, nausea, fatigue, burning, itching, headaches and difficulty breathing are all associated with chemical sensitivity. If you have one of these symptoms, it is worth checking out if it is something from your clothes.

When you look at the labels you should be aware in particular of formaldehyde. This chemical material is linked to a 30 per cent increase in lung cancer, plus skin/lung irritation and dermatitis. Its properties are to be anti-cling, anti-static, anti-shrink, waterproof, chlorine resistant and perspiration-proof but as we have seen, it is not so good for the health. Additionally, humidity and high temperatures, can open the pores and facilitate the increase in chemical absorption.

The good news is that most governments have restricted formaldehyde levels in clothing but not in the US and in China. That is why we should be careful of buying products that say ‘Made in China’.

We also have to be aware of the ‘Disperse Blue’ dyes. They carry one of the highest risks of dermatitis, in particular dark blue, brown, and black synthetic clothing. If you are wondering if laundering can change something, the answer is no. Another chemical elements is the brominated ‘Tris’. It is a mutagen and can cause cancer and sterility in animals. Luckily, in 1977, tris was banned from children’s clothing in the US after 36 children a year were suffering serious injuries from sleepwear.

Of course there is something that we can do to overcome the risks. Start by buying natural and organic clothing that is chemical-free. Organic cotton is a perfect product as well as flax, silk, wool and hemp. Sometimes it is hard to find shops that sell these products, Hempest, Patagonia, Eco-Wise and Fair Indigo, are some reliable brands to take into account.

Focus on your health, buy organic clothes.