Friday, November 14, 2008

Born on Earth Kids - Why Organic Cotton Matters

As Jules and I build our new organic kids line - Born on Earth Kids - I have been researching how clothing is typically created in the conventional world. What I have found has strengthened my conviction that organic, sustainable materials and processes are critical for human and environmental health. Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop on the planet, and is known to cause severe illness and even death related to pesticide poisoning.

And the harm is not contained to the farmers working with the toxic chemicals – the pesticides routinely seep into the groundwater, creating unsafe drinking water for entire communities.

Here are some deeply disturbing facts we collected from various sources including Clothes for Change and the Sustainable Cotton Project. The more we learn the more we are passionate about our mission for Born on Earth Kids! Here are the hard facts....
  • Pesticide poisoning results in approximately 20,000 deaths and 3M injuries annually worldwide. Nearly half of these deaths and injuries are attributed to cotton pesticide use.
  • Five of the top nine pesticides used in cotton production are known cancer-causing chemicals. (cyanazine, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin).
  • At least 50% of Cotton is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)
  • Conventional cotton uses 25% of total worldwide insecticides and 11% all pesticides, but only produces 2.4% of total agriculture – making it the most pesticide-intensive crop on the planet
  • 1/3 lb of chemicals are used to produce one t-shirt
  • Children exposed to 'cotton poison' methyl parathion, suffer memory loss and emotional swings
  • Pesticides used on cotton cause acute poisonings and chronic illnesses to farm workers worldwide. Acute respiratory symptoms and other health effects in communities surrounding cotton farms are correlated with high use of defoliation chemicals.
  • The pesticides used by farmers not only kill cotton pests but also decimate populations of beneficial insects such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Because their natural enemies have been eradicated, these target insects, which were once only minor nuisances for farmers, become greater problems and ever-increasing quantities of toxic chemicals must be sprayed to keep them in check. Farmers then become stuck on what is known as the 'pesticide treadmill'.
  • 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.
  • Over 10,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cancer related to pesticides.
  • The pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used on cotton routinely contaminate groundwater, surface water and pollute the water we drink.
  • Fish, birds and other wildlife are also affected by the movement of these chemicals through the ecosystem. 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.
Enough said – it is time for a change! Buy organic clothing, wear organic clothing, support the organic cotton movement. For more information go to Clothes for Change, the source for most of the above data.

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