We've all heard the term "you are what you eat" being conscious of where our food comes from and how it's been made - but are you aware of what you're putting on your body and the impact it's having on your health and the environment?
What are most leggings made from?
Stretchy plastic textiles were first developed by DuPont in the 1940’s and trademarked as Nylon. It was considered a revolution at the time, but no one knew then what we know now – that these fibres are extremely dangerous to our environment, our food chain and our health. You might know them as ‘Luon’, ‘Pilayo’ and ‘Studiolux’ – these and other plastic based polyamide textiles are made out of oil.
What impact do they have on us?
Plastic-derived polyamide textiles are absorbed into the skin when worn. Through the simple mechanical process of abrasion, each time you wear these textiles, tiny plastic fibres are rubbed off and absorbed into the biggest organ in your body - your skin. The skin absorbs 80% of what you put on it and when you exercise the body tries to regulate your temperature through sweating, which means your pores open up and let the fibres in. The textiles also cause your body to heat up more as you are essentially 'glad-wrapping’ yourself in the plastic fabric, causing more sweating, more opening and more plastics absorption.
What impact do they have on the environment?
Plastic-derived polyamide textiles are the biggest source of micro-plastic pollution in our oceans. Every time you wash your polyamide leggings, sports bras and sweat wicking jogging shorts, they shed their plastic microfibers into your washing machine which make their way down the drain and into our waterways and on to the ocean. A two year study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) found that 82% of the micro-plastic pollution accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico is originating from synthetic clothes like stretchy polyamide yoga and athletic wear. Research into the contents of different fish from lakes and oceans around the world has found that plastic was present in one out of four fish sampled. These plastic chemicals are then absorbed from the gut, into the flesh of fish – which is then consumed by other fish, and by humans.
Are recycled plastic leggings any better?
Although touted as an ecological initiative by some yoga brands, it’s been found that recycled plastic products shed micro-fibres at an even faster rate. Whilst recycling plastic is a good idea, making it into fabric which needs to be washed frequently may not be. Studies show that an eco-fleece jacket made from recycled plastics sheds almost two thousand plastic fibers per wash, which is more than other fabrics that are made from non-recycled materials.
What's the alternative?
Increasingly conscious designers are choosing to use natural fibres like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and linen combined with minimal amounts of spandex to bring you the hugging, flattering yoga pants that you love that aren’t endangering our oceans and our health. WE-AR the lifestyle and yoga brand are transparent about their textiles and offer 100% organic cotton tees and leggings that are 90% organic cotton with 10% elastane –the minimum needed in a textile to yield two-way stretch, body hugging functionality and longevity.
WE-AR is constantly searching the earth for a 100% natural alternative so stay tuned for breakthroughs as they happen. Make sure you follow them as they unravel this story and speak up about making a conscious choice for our planet and our bodies. WE-AR has chosen to include a minor spandex component to their active wear products as it increases the lifecycle of the product, ensuring they keep their shape for years to come, and thus minimising high garment turnover.