Silver ions in your clothing, Do you have silver ions in your clothes?
Do you wear clothes with silver ions?
Sales of antibacterial agents has increased significantly and they are used in a variety of products including workout clothes, leisure clothes, mattresses, vacuum filters, cutting boards and sheets. Even clothes for normal wear can contain agents. Clothes and textiles are impregnated with various antimicrobial substances in the manufacture. One agent that is used in clothes for this purpose is silver ions. And when the clothes are washed, the silver ions are rinsed out in lakes and rivers and harm the environment as a toxin. Other agents for antibacterial treatment are triclosan and triclocarban.
Silver ions is used as antibacterial treatment in many different areas
Silver is known to be used in jewellery and cutlery, but is now used more frequently in other areas to. In resent years the use of silver increased in areas such as: medical supply, water cooling system and for drinking water disinfection. The use also increases in consumer products as antibacterial agent in e.g. cosmetics, clothes, shoes, refrigerators, toothbrushes, plastic bottles, vacuum filters, shower curtains, kitchen surfaces and cutting boards.
What is the purpose of having antibacterial agents in clothing and goods?
The purpose with antibacterial agents is just as the name implies; they are toxic and designed to kill or prevent organisms! In clothing the target is bacteria. In the beginning antibacterial agents in clothing was mostly included in sportswear and workout clothes that was used in extreme environments where there are no or small possibility to wash the clothes or mind the personal hygiene like adventure trips or research expeditions. And the main reason was to prevent smell of sweet and body odour. For some reason the use of antibacterial agents has now increased. In goods the reason for using antibacterials are the same. The silver ions are supposed to prevent bacteria on walls in a refrigerator or on the surface of a cutting board.
What types of clothing may contain silver ions?
Silver ions or other antibacterial agents can be found in all kind of clothing like workout clothes, shoes, leisure clothes, jackets, hats, socks, sweaters, underwear and more. So now antibacterial agents like silver ions and triclosan or triclocarban has spread to clothes for more normal use, and it can also be found in clothes for small children. Antibacterial agents can be found in all types of fabrics such as synthetic materials, cotton, linen, wool and silk.
Facts about silver and the effect to organism and environment
According to Swedish Chemicals Agency, silver ions are very lethal for aquatic organisms and may cause long term damage. Several studies have shown that silver ions can damage the genetic material, reproduction and embryo development. Fish and reptiles are especially sensitive, there growth and reproduction deteriorate at such low levels as 1 micro gram silver per litre. Silver is persistent, which means that the silver that once released in to the environment will remain there. The uses of silver ions in different types of consumer products contribute to a diffuse distribution to the environment via waste water and savage sludge. The degree of silver discharged and released into the environment varies between different uses. The environmental impact of silver-treated textiles laundered regularly is probably bigger than from a refrigerator with a silver coating that is wiped rarely and with smaller amounts of water.
In a recent study made by the Swedish Chemical Agency in December 2011 was found that silver and triclosan were washed out of the clothes relatively quickly. The amount of silver and triclosan that was washed out of the garments is remarkable. This means that much of the silver in clothing are washed out directly down the drain.
Silver causes problems in water treatment plants, where it disrupts the nitrogen cycle and is also toxic to the bacteria that are used in the biologic degradation in the water treatment plants. To high concentrations of silver also make the sewage toxic.
A silver ion that is used in washer machines is nano-particles and consists of metallic silver, which is powdered. Since it is metallic and not ions, it is not as reactive. That makes nano-particles less toxic in the short term, but can give unexpected consequences in the long- term. Nano-particles is special and we don’t know its side effects yet. Until we know, we should use them with moderation!
However, it is likely that all the silver treated products effect the environment to some degree. The big question is whether the benefits from silver treated products really can offset the negative impact it could have on the environment.
In addition to the environmental aspects there are also concerns for the direct exposure to children who might suck on textiles containing antibacterial agents.
Also the "good" bacteria is effected
Another negative effect comes from wearing clothes that contains silver ions is that the antibacterial also affect those bacteria that are supposed to protect us, the natural skin bacteria. The skin bacteria will also be effected by clothes that are washed in washing machines bearing silver for antibacterial treatment in the way that the silver accumulates on your clothes and effect your natural bacterial flora.
There are suspicions that the silver may contribute to the development of resistant bacteria. In that case, we might remove one of the reminding weapons against bacteria. Expose bacteria to multitude of silver ions, and they will die, because it is toxic. At low concentrations of silver, the bacteria survives, and instead change their cell walls and cell membranes in a way that will close their walls to silver ions and also to antibiotic. You can also drink colloidal silver for nutria supplement for humans and for medical applications for dogs. Colloidal silver is a liquid solution of charged silver particles of monovalent silver. It is used in dogs for e.g. ear infections, skin conditions, parasites, yeast infections and many other diseases and ailment. Colloidal silver works by destroy the oxygen metabolism in bacteria and fungal agents and the pathogens suffocate themselves. Personally, I hope the silver do not accumulate in human bodies or in dogs, but then, if it does not accumulate, it’s spread to the environment instead, so it is bad ether way!
Do you have clothes that contain silver ions?
Do you really need antibacterials in your clothing?
Do you think it is worth the risk?
Unclear marking on the products
It isn’t easy to know weather you have products that contains antibacterial agents or not, because the marking of these products is unclear. Products containing silver as an antibacterial substance is not always clearly labeled. Some names may provide a clue to the silver or other antibacterial active substance used for example: "antimicrobial", ”anti-odour”, "free of bacteria", "for lasting freshness", "hygienic protection", "keeps the natural hygienic balance", "treated against odour", "prevents mis colour" etc. But there are also products that contain antibacterials that isn't labeled at all. Unfortunately, some labeled products as "environmentally friendly" are without any evidence to support such a claim. So it isn't easy to make a real choice a s a customer.
If antibacterial agents are so dangerous to the environment, why are they not forbidden or controlled better?
Even though there are several legislation about biocides like antibacterial agents most of the laws in EU put the responsibility on the producers of the chemicals or products. The EU´s chemicals legislation REACH and the Product Safety Directive has decided on a new biocidal Products Regulation which will come into force in September 2013. The legislation will tighten the requirements and it will not be permitted to release a biocidal product on the Eu market unless the ingredients are approved for what it is intended for. There is also rules in the legislation about how products with antibacterial agents must be labeled. The requirements will also apply to products that are imported to EU.
Until then, and maybe longer in other countries, we must be aware of the risks and make a decision whether or not we think the need for antibacterials in clothing are worth the risk.
I find it unbelievable that we are prepared to use everything possible just to avoid the smell of sweat without considering the consequences. Perspiration is a natural odour and although it is unwanted it must be okay during physical effort.
I have made my decision!
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