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The Benefits of Organic Cotton

Updated on January 9, 2016
Organic cotton plants
Organic cotton plants | Source

Some people totally deny the concept and existence of "organic" plants and products, and often they label those who support organic farmers and products as "fools eager to pay more money for a mediocre product."

I'm not one of those people, and here's why: I'm a scientist, I've done my research, and what I've found is an undeniable connection between toxins, a debilitated ecosystem, and a decrease in human health.

Organic living is simple living without the use of carcinogenic toxins like pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, or man-made fertilizers, etc.

Believe it or not, but the organic method is the way crops and produce have been grown for tens of thousands of years--that is, until recently. All these crazy, carcinogenic chemicals leach into the fruits and vegetables you eat, are ingested in your body, and play a significant role in contributing to the development of diseases like cancer.

What you wear is also important, for it not only is in contact with your skin all day, but it also is directly affecting the ecosystem and Earth around you. Nature, and ecosystems, are interdependent, which is to say that when one species goes out of whack, everything around it is also disrupted (including us.) Using carcinogenic chemicals to produce cotton is unnecessary and harmful.

Once you realize the negative effects on health and the environment, you'll want to switch to organic foods and textiles.

"In the U.S., one-third of a pound of chemicals is needed just to grow enough conventional cotton for a regular T-shirt." -- Catherine Potter, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Man spraying pesticides on crops
Man spraying pesticides on crops | Source
Uses predators to deter insects
Uses carcinogenic insecticides to deter insects
Soil preparation
Crop rotation and organic matter leads to moist, healthy soil
Man-made fertilizers and monocropping leads to soil depletion and the need for intensive irrigation
Weed control
Healthy soil is balanced naturally and uses beneficial plants and insects to curb weed growth
Aerial spraying of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, known to be carcinogenic
Natural defoliation through the use of water management and/or temperature change
Defoliation induced by the use of toxic chemicals
Loom warp fibers are stabilized using double plying or corn starch
Loom warp fibers are stabilized using toxic waxes
Whitened using peroxide
Whitened using chlorine bleach, which releases toxic byproducts into the environment
Soft scour in warm water using soda ash for a pH 7.5
Synthetic surfactants and hot water, sometimes using formaldehyde
Natural or fiber-reactive dyes with low metal and sulfur content
High temperature, with the use of heavy metals and high sulfur content
Natural or low-impact pigments with no heavy metals
Heavy metal pigments leach into water systems, causing environmental destruction
Intitially about 20% more expensive in the short term
Initially about 20% cheaper in the short term
Not sustainable
Pure, organic cotton plants
Pure, organic cotton plants | Source

Hazardous Chemicals Used In Commercial Cotton Production

The World Health Organisation classifies pesticides according to acute toxicity, using the LD50 (Lethal Dose 50%) benchmark. LD50 denotes the amount of a chemical required to kill 50% of an exposed population of laboratory rats.

WHO Category
Oral LD50 (Solids | Liquids)
Dermal LD50 (Solids | Liquids)
1a Extremely Hazardous
5mg or below | 20mg or below
10mg or below | 40mg or below
1b Highly Hazardous
5-50mg | 20-200mg
10-100mg | 40-400mg
2 Moderately Hazardous
50-500mg | 200-2000mg
100-1000mg | 400-4000mg
3 Slightly Hazardous
Over 500mg | Over 2000mg
Over 1000mg | Over 4000mg

1a (Extremely Hazardous):

  • Aldicarb
  • Parathion

1b (Highly Hazardous):

  • Methamidophos

2 (Moderately Hazardous):

  • Alpha-cypermethrin
  • Beta-cyfluthrin
  • Bromoxynil
  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Deltamethrin
  • Dimethoate

3 (Slightly Hazardous):

  • Acephate
  • Etridiazole
  • Fluazifop-p-butyl
  • Malathion
  • Metalaxyl
  • Methylarsonic acid
  • Pendimethalin
  • Thiram

Pesticides are bad news
Pesticides are bad news | Source

Acute Symptoms Of Pesticide Poisoning

Headaches, vomiting, tremors, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing or respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, seizures, and death.

Chronic effects of long-term pesticide exposure include impaired memory and concentration, disorientation, severe depression, and confusion.

Commercial Cotton Factoids

Source: Environmental Justice Foundation

  • Commercial cotton is responsible for the release of US$2 billion of chemical pesticides each year, within which at least US$819 million are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation.
  • Between 1% and 3% of agricultural workers worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning with at least 1 million requiring hospitalization each year, according to a report prepared jointly for the FAO, UNEP, and WHO. These figures equate to between 25 million and 77 million agricultural workers worldwide.
  • A single drop of the pesticide aldicarb, absorbed through the skin can kill an adult. Aldicarb is commonly used in cotton production and in 2003 almost 1 million kilos was applied to cotton grown in the USA. Aldicarb is also applied to cotton in 25 other countries worldwide.
  • Despite being particularly vulnerable to poisoning, child laborers throughout the world risk exposure to hazardous pesticides through participation in cotton production.
  • A 2004 study conducted by researchers at the Technical University of Lódz, in Poland, has shown that hazardous pesticides applied during cotton production can also be detected in cotton clothing.

Beautiful cotton
Beautiful cotton | Source

More Information & Where To Buy Organic Cotton Products

Organic cotton products:

Further reading:

Copyright © 2012 Faceless39. All rights reserved.


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    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      As a biology major, I can totally understand the formaldehyde thing. After working with it off and on for a couple years, I found my sensitivity to it was crazy. I've also noticed that new houses, new buildings, new cars, and large warehouse-type stores make me feel odd.

      Luckily organic clothing (etc.) is becoming pretty mainstream now, so it must be catching on. It's amazing what we ignore (or are unaware of) out there, and that includes non-organic foods as well.

      Thanks for the great comment. I'm glad you've found a solution!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for putting the facts out there and for suggesting some sources for organic cotton clothing! I've been on a mission to buy organic cotton as much as possible. After years of working in a research lab, I've developed formaldehyde and other chemical sensitivities and just walking in a store with new non-organic clothing can cause breathing problems - all those chemicals off-gasing!

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Thanks for the comments. And yes, all organic products are equally important; not just cotton!

    • profile image

      girltalksshop 5 years ago

      I never knew these facts about cotton. Great hub and very useful, plus full of information. Good to know stuff. I love cotton clothes...they are the best! : )

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 5 years ago from India

      Not only cotton, whatever product grown in organic way is healthier to the individual also to the land/nation. Nice awareness you have created here.Thanks for SHARING:)

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      That sounds like a good idea, thanks. :)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I see, please do tell us more about processed organic foods. You might want to write a hub on this so we can be educated.

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      I can't help but think about those multi-billionaires who seemingly have everything, and yet they don't have their health, so it's all meaningless. Health really is the most important thing we have, and to me and many others, it's worth paying an extra dollar or two to help ensure longevity.

      I understand the argument, but really, organic veggies aren't that much more expensive when you weigh the pros and cons and doctor's visits. What starts getting expensive is Processed organic foods, which you shouldn't be buying anyway lol.

      Thanks for the great comments!

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, nice hub, very interesting and with a lot of really valuable info. It is really a must to change to organic foods and textiles, but as jpcmc mentioned, the big problem is the cost, which is the reason a lot of people don't buy them.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Wow, this hub is full of interesting and useful information. I try to buy organic produce whenever I can. However, organic produce is more expensive. That's why I try to grow my own vegetables in the backyard. Of course with as little chemicals as possible.