School Uniforms | Breast Cancer UK

Dressed to impress?
Do school uniforms really need to be full of toxic chemicals?

School Uniforms

Our kids spend around 8 hours a day, 180 days a year in school uniforms, yet research shows that uniforms and kids clothing in general can be laden with a wide range of harmful chemicals. For some reason uniforms, in particular, have been modified to be 'easycare', 'stain resistant', 'water repellent' and 'easy iron'. Just what every parents wants, right?  Wrong!    

It’s not just the chemicals residues in or on the clothes that cause the problem but the chemicals used during the manufacturing process that can cause real environmental damage, whilst at the same time posing a risk to human health.   

You’d be surprised what research into kid’s clothing has found - heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, chlorine, organotins (biocides) phthalates (plasticisers), antimony trioxide (used in polyester), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and per/poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs) (used in stain resistant and water resistant materials).  In varying degrees, these chemicals have been found to be hormone disrupting and/or carcinogenic.  Many have links to breast cancer as well as a wide range of other adverse health effects, including asthma and eczema.

Our advice:

  • Avoid 'easycare', stain resistant and water repellent finishes - these are likely to contain PFCs which are hormone disrupting chemicals and have been found to be carcinogenic in laboratory tests;
  • Avoid anti bacterial socks, trainers and shoes - some will contain biocides or fungicides to prevent smells caused by sweaty feet;
  • Buy organic cotton whenever possible - intensive cotton production is known for its high use of insecticides, herbicides and pesticides;
  • Avoid anything which has heavy plastic motifs as these may contain phthalates which are also hormone disrupters;
  • Avoid polyester which is made using antimony trioxide which has been classed as "possibly carcinogenic to humans"; and finally
  • For more advice on where to source ethical and environmentally friendly clothing visit the Ethical Consumer website.

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