Cotton is one of the most widely used products. It is used so widely, in fact, you’re probably wearing it or using it right now. It’s in our clothes, our hygiene products, our bedding, and our furniture. But a series of new studies reveal how toxic some cotton-containing products are, most notably, the products we use mostly for personal hygiene.
A Dirty Crop
The Rodale Institute lists cotton as the dirtiest plant in the world for its massive use of herbicides and pesticides. Aldicarb, an insecticide that is extremely toxic to animals and humans is still used on cotton in over 20 countries, including the US. (1)
Staggeringly, 16 percent of global insecticides are used by cotton farmers, and cotton agriculture covers 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. cotton in 2010 was genetically engineered, according to a USDA survey. Up to 98 percent of all cotton is now genetically engineered in nine of the eleven cotton-producing nations examined. (2)
GMOs and chemicals found in herbicides and insecticides are linked to infertility, immune system failure, and organ defects. (3)
Dangerous Hygiene Products?
A 2015 study from the University La Plata in Argentina found that glyphosate, a toxic herbicide, was present in 85 percent of tested samples of cotton hygiene products. (4) The World Health Organization defined glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” but it is still the most widely used herbicide worldwide.
“The results of this research are very serious,” said pediatrician Medardo Avila Vázquez. “When you use cotton or gauze to heal wounds, or for personal hygienic use, you do so thinking that they are sterilized products, and now we know that they are in fact contaminated with a cariogenic substance.”
“Most cotton production in [Argentina] is resistant transgenic glyphosate,” said Vázquez. “And if sprayed if the cotton bud is open, glyphosate is condensed and passes directly to the product.”
The production of GMO cotton has become very common in several countries, including Argentina and the United States. Farmers used Monsanto’s GMO seeds and agrochemical products, with the promise of higher yields.
During the process of growing GMO cotton, where the plants were designed to withstand the application of glyphosate found in the common herbicide Roundup, farmers are spraying the chemicals onto the plants when the cotton bud is open.
This means that Roundup is applied directly to the part of the cotton plant that is then processed to produce your personal hygiene products.
The study came as a huge shock to researchers, as their aim was to demonstrate the presence of these carcinogens in food substances. The researchers say the new information from the University of La Plata has opened a new door.” (4)
A different study found glyphosate in the urine of 90 percent of the inhabitants of the Buenos Aires district of General Pueyrredón. In those cases, glyphosate had metabolized in the body.
BIOS Medical conducted a survey of glyphosate in soil, water, and blood in 2013, and found that agro-toxins did not disappear after applied to the skin. (5) DDT for example, a chemical found in pesticides that have not been used for some years, has still been shown metabolized in the human body.
The Superior Court of Cordoba sentenced three years of suspension to farmers Francisco Rafael Parra and Edgardo Jorge who sold their products to Ituzaingó, Buenos Aires, an area where it seems every person has a family member with cancer.
What You Can Do About It
The most tried and true way limit your body’s exposure to glyphosate is to reduce the use of cotton products, unless they explicitly state that they are GMO-free or organic.
The media in countries where GMO crops account for an overwhelming majority of the big four (corn, canola, soy, and cotton) will not educate the public about the potential dangers of personal hygiene products that are ridden with chemicals. It is up to you, the consumer, to stay informed about cotton and its health effects.
Organic cotton gauze, organic cotton feminine products, and organic cotton balls are all much healthier alternatives for personal hygiene. Menstrual cups, made out of a non-disposable silicone, are known to be much safer, cheaper and more environmentally friendly substitutes to tampons or pads.
When you shop for cotton clothing, diapers, sheets, linens, cushions, etc. keep in mind that “All Natural” cotton or “All Natural” fibers are not always completely free of chemicals or GMOs; the processing of cotton textiles also relies heavily on toxic and hazardous chemicals.
Even after a wash, traces of these chemicals can remain in fabrics have all sorts of long-term consequences for your health. “All natural” food and personal care products are not organic unless they carry a USDA seal.
Read labels carefully to be sure that you are buying the highest standards in food, personal care and textile purity for the health of your family and the environment.
- Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. (2011, July 14). USDA ERS. July 14, 2011.
- Baker, N. T., & Stone, W. W. (2015). Estimated annual agricultural pesticide use for counties of the conterminous United States, 2008–12. Data Series, 900-907. doi:10.3133/ds907ds
- By the third generation, most hamsters fed GM soy were unable to have babies. (n.d.). Health Risks – Institute for Responsible Technology. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Porta, M. (2016, March 3). Faculty of 1000 evaluation of Differences in the carcinogenic evaluation of glyphosate between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). F1000 – Post-publication Peer Review of the Biomedical Literature. doi:10.3410/f.726267569.793516472
- Reddy, K. N. (2000). Factors Affecting Toxicity, Absorption, and Translocation of Glyphosate in Redvine ( Brunnichia ovata ) 1. Weed Technology, 14(3), 457-462. doi:10.1614/0890-037x(2000)014[0457:fataat]2.0.co;2
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