Photo by IWTO

People often ask about chemical use in the wool industry.  With toxicity in all textiles increasing in importance, and awareness of the impact of what we wear on our skin, the body’s largest organ, we take a look here at the latest wool research, plus some news about health implications of polyester.

Greasy wool = clean

Research published earlier this year found that raw wool from Australia and New Zealand – which supply about one third of the world’s wool – was comfortably below the EU’s chemical residue limits. And getting lower. Most woolgrowers use medicine to control ticks, lice and mites, and this is the source of these residues.

The study – Chemical residue trends for Australian and New Zealand wool, by  Ranford, Swan & van Koten – tested for organophosphates, organochlorines, synthetic pyrethroids and specific insect growth regulators. The researchers accessed tests performed by Australian Wool Innovation since 2001.

These reveal that residues of the older chemical groups, the organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids, have declined to nearly zero.

Read More: The chemical residues in wool study has been featured in Twist magazine and Suston – Sustainable Outdoor News

Photo by Ethan Bodnar on Unsplash

Toxins in other textiles – what you need to know

A new report cited in Sourcing Journal warns that polyester isn’t just helping fuel the climate crisis, but could also be threatening human health. This applies to both virgin and recycled polyethylene terephthalate, referred to as PET.

Despite its acronym, PET is pretty much the opposite of a soft and furry four-legged companion. Two of the biggest petrochemical building blocks used to make PET are monoethylene glycol and paraxylene.

The first is a known fetal poison.

The latter is a neurological and respiratory toxicant.

Quick Facts About PET

  • More than 300 million metric tons of PET produced in 2019 (The Defend Our Health report says 475 million metric tons of plastic produced that year; Plastic Soup Foundation says 368 million)
  • Less than 1% of PET-based polyester fibre used for clothing and other textiles is currently recycled. When it is, the dominant use for rPET is polyester fibre, accounting for 41% of the entire rPET market
  • Clothing and textile production doubled in the past 15 years. 70% of that growth has been in the fast fashion sector, with goods being made from fossil fuel fibres

Read the report

And Luxiders offers this useful review of toxic textiles.

More Info on Chemicals in Wool

  • For details on chemicals in wool processing, see our Wool Notes pages 17-18.
  • Bust the myth: machine-washable treatment on wool does not contribute to microplastic pollution, and machine-washable wool has been found to biodegrade even faster than untreated wool