by in Home Health January 12, 2014

The Sad News About Cotton

I wanted to add a page exploring clothing and toxicity, mostly for my own benefit.  I had not researched this topic too much in the past.  I assumed organic cotton was obviously a better choice, however I did not understand the depth to this truth until now.  Honestly, this was a painful journey and a true eye opener.

Most of our cotton is grown in third world countries, sprayed with massive amounts of pesticides.  In short, children are dying as a consequence.  I am deeply saddened by what I have uncovered, and please, I urge you to read the following articles:

  1. The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton – Environmental Justice Foundation (Shocking and Tragic)
  2. Pesticides Commonly Used on Cotton

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Conventionally Grown Cotton FACTS

The following FACTS are from the Organic Consumers website:

  • Farmers in the United States apply nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested.
  • When all nineteen cotton-growing states are tallied, cotton crops account for twenty-five percent of all the pesticides used in the U.S.
  • In California, five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton are cancer-causing chemicals (cyanazine, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin).
  • In Egypt, more than 50% of cotton workers in the 1990s suffered symptoms of chronic pesticide poisoning, including neurological and vision disorders.
  • In India, 91% of male cotton workers exposed to pesticides eight hours or more per day experienced some type of health disorder, including chromosomal aberrations, cell death and cell cycle delay.
  • In the US, a 1987 National Cancer Institute Study found a nearly seven-fold higher risk of leukemia for children whose parents used pesticides in their homes or gardens.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that at least three million people are poisoned by pesticides every year and 20-40,000 more are killed.
  • Over 1 million Americans will learn they have some form of cancer and 10,400 people in the U.S. die each year from cancer related to pesticides.
  • Perspective, just 2.4% of the world’s arable land is planted with cotton yet it accounts for 24% of the world’s insecticide market and 11% of global pesticides sales, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet.
  • In 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields in Alabama killed 240,000 fish.
  • It is estimated that pesticides unintentionally kill 67 million birds each year.
  • 14 million people in the U.S. are routinely drinking water contaminated with carcinogenic herbicides and 90 percent of municipal water treatment facilities lack equipment to remove these chemicals.

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Organically Grown Cotton FACTS

The following FACTS are from the Organic Consumers website:

  • Working with rather than against nature is the guiding principle behind organic farming.
  • Organic farmers use biologically-based rather than chemically dependent growing systems to raise crops.
  • While many conventional farmers are reacting to the ecological disorder created by monocultures, organic farmers focus on preventing problems before they occur.
  • By focusing on managing rather than completely eliminating troublesome weeds and insects, organic farmers are able to maintain ecological balance and protect the environment.
  • Organic cotton is now being grown in more than 18 countries worldwide.
  • In the United States, approximately 10,000 acres of organic cotton were planted in 1998 in the Mid-South, Texas and California.
  • The Soil:  Organic Farming starts with healthy soil.  The soil is seen as a living system and not simply a growing medium for plants.   Compost, efficient nutrient recycling, frequent crop rotations and cover crops replace synthetic fertilizers to keep the soil healthy and productive.
  • In Peru, cotton farmers have saved over $100 per acre in pesticide and fertilizer costs by switching over to organic production.
  • In Tanzania organic cotton farmers plant sunflowers to encourage beneficial ants that feed on the larvae of the bollworm, and fertilize the soil with manure from their cattle.
  • In India organic farmers intercrop cotton with pigeon peas and make insecticidal sprays from garlic, chili and the neem tree.
  • In California, organic cotton farmers plant habitat strips of vegetation such as alfalfa near their fields as a refuge for beneficial insects.
  • Weed Control:  Organic Farmers have many options to control weeds including: hoes and other mechanical weeding implements, crop rotations, planting several crops together (intercropping), more efficient use of irrigation water, the use of mulches, and even adjusting the planting dates and densities of their crops.
  • Pest Control:  By encouraging biological diversity, farmers create conditions which reduce the likelihood of any insect, bird or mammal doing any major damage to their crop.  To control pests, organic farmers may use beneficial predator insects, crop rotations, intercropping, and biological pesticides such as neem oil.

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Clothing Resources

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