Fabrics like those used to make sheets, curtains, rugs and upholstry coverings can contain a cocktail of chemicals designed to render them stain, water and flameproof. Unfortunately, they also add to the burden our bodies are trying to cope with on a daily basis. Sleep is part of the restorative process and switching to less toxic sheets can lead to better sleep and more energy. Stain and wrinkle-free sheets have been made with formaldehyde which off-gasses at room temperature causing flu-like symptoms, breathing problems, watery eyes, fatigue, headache and throat irritation in sensitive people. Heating in the dryer or ironing makes them off-gas even more. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we really need antimicrobial, stain-resistant, waterproof, flameproof curtains if they also come with breathing problems and other harmful health effects? Which is the higher risk?”
Bleaching with chlorine makes sheets white and heavy metals in dyes can also be problematic, so choosing undyed organic cotton fabric is the safest option. Some sheet sets are labelled as having heavy-metal-free or vegetable-based dyes.
Although a good option for many, natural isn’t always the best choice. Just ask people with wool and feather allergies. Try before you buy whenever possible. It’s worth attempting to get samples of materials before committing to a purchase. Test for skin allergies and fumes that can cause breathing problems.
Polyester, sold as hypo-allergic, gives many chemically sensitive people horrid symptoms, especially when heated. It’s a fibre made from petroleum.
Pesticides are another problem which can easily be overcome by purchasing organic cotton fabrics.
Balancing comfort, health and cost can make for some work, but getting a good sleep and getting rid of a persitant rash can be priceless.
Copyright Lynn Argent, 2008.