The Off-Gassing Problem & O Ecotextiles’ Solution

From on December 10, 2008 in Green Remodeling

O Ecotextiles/assets/images/blog/green-wednesday.gifHave you ever walked into a home furnishings, carpeting, or clothing store and immediately upon sensing the air quality, turned around and walked out? I have, many times. This response was so curious to me that I started talking about it with friends in both the interior design and apparel industries. I learned that what I was experiencing was the result of “off-gassing,” or the releasing of chemicals used in the processing of fibers and fabrics.

Once, after I spent some time browsing in a furniture store that featured a lot of upholstered pieces and a section full of carpeting samples, I asked the sales associate how she was able to work in that toxic environment. At first, she asked, “What do you mean?” And when I described how strongly I was registering the off-gassing of all the chemicals and preservatives in the fabrics and carpet fibers, she was fascinated. She hadn’t known about off-gassing. And yet her physical system knew.

She said that for the first few months on the job, she’d look in the mirror and see red, swollen eyes and wonder why she constantly looked like she’d “been on a bender.” Now, she takes anti-allergy pills daily as a way of dealing with it. She keeps a box of tissue at the ready on her sales desk because by the time customers sit down with her when she writes up orders, she says they are always looking for a tissue. This is because the chemical reaction causes runny noses as well as irritated eyes. Maybe no one realizes why they suddenly have the sniffles in these environments, but the box of tissue at the ready makes it clear that people are frequently affected by allergic reactions to the chemicals in the air.

This hidden assault on the senses has seemed so obvious to me that it has surprised me that so many people are unaware of it. So imagine my delight in learning that there are new textile manufacturing companies stepping out to:

  • Develop environmentally sound textile manufacturing plants
  • Create quality fabrics without using chemicals and preservatives
  • Educate the green-oriented consumer about current textile production’s hazards, both to the environment and to the consumers of the goods

One such company is O Ecotextiles. The approach of this company is exemplary, and there’s so much to report about it that I will simply introduce it here, and then devote another post to the company’s research and product line. This post’s focus is on describing the everyday results of chemical overload in fibers and fabrics, because you, like the sales associate mentioned earlier, may not be aware of how pervasive the off-gassing toxicity is – and how it affects many people.

Look for my next post about O Ecotextiles as Part 2 to this post. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this educational tidbit from the EcoFacts section of the O Ecotextiles website:

  • Traditionally produced fabrics contain residuals of chemicals that evaporate into the air we breathe or are absorbed through our skin. Some of these chemicals may trigger allergic reactions - and much worse. According to a June 5, 2005 article in Business Week, the population that is allergic to chemicals will grow to 60 percent by the year 2020.