In our previous article “ Toxins in clothing: harmful chemicals in textiles ?” we already told you that our clothes are often treated with all kinds of chemicals to give them their 'superpowers'. Think of wrinkle and water resistance and vibrant colors, prints and prints. Unfortunately, almost all clothing – whether high or low fashion – comes with a price. In our opinion, this is never okay, but CERTAINLY not when it comes to clothing for the little ones among us. Read here why not and what you can do to protect your kids.
Children are extra sensitive to toxic substances
Let's dive right in. Children are definitely considered more susceptible to the effects of toxins than adults. And that makes sense. A child's body is still developing, including organs such as the liver and immune system that play a role in detoxifying and eliminating substances from the body. This makes children a lot more vulnerable to the effects of toxic substances in clothing than adults. Because children are often in contact with textiles 24/7 (from rompers to sleeping bags), this is something for parents to take into account.
Children absorb more toxins
Did you know that children have a higher breathing rate than adults? Therefore, if clothing contains chemicals that can evaporate (such as formaldehyde), they may inhale more of these substances. They also have a larger skin surface area in relation to their body weight. Their skin is there thinner and more sensitive. If clothing comes into direct contact with the skin, toxic substances can be absorbed more easily. In addition, kids have a tendency to put their hands in their mouths. If their hands come into contact with clothing containing toxic substances, these substances can be swallowed. Finally, children grow quickly and consume more clothing than adults, which means they are exposed to a lot of different materials and therefore potentially more toxic chemicals in a relatively short time.
PFAS and BPA in children's clothing
And clothes are often packed with toxic chemicals... After all, they don't just get superpowers. For example, clothes may contain PFAS (e.g. for water-resistant coatings) and BPA or successors such as BPS (e.g. for plastic parts). PFAS has been linked to a variety of serious health problems, including asthma, weakened immunity in children, weight gain, hormone disruption, infertility, increased cholesterol levels and even cancer. BPA affects our hormones (it's a chemical that mimics the effects of the female hormone estrogen) and has been linked to heart disease, infertility, cancer, obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, depression and anxiety disorders, among other things. Not a pleasant story, sorry.
Formaldehyde in children's clothing
Children's clothing may also contain the chemical formaldehyde, which is used to preserve the color of garments and reduce wrinkles and stains. Super practical of course, but not healthy at all. Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen by several health agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). So really not a sweetheart. Although only a small amount of formaldehyde is allowed in clothing in Europe since 2020, any amount of this substance is too much as far as we are concerned. Be aware that those cute, trendy children's clothes can release toxic formaldehyde fumes that your children then inhale. In new garments, this concentration of formaldehyde is of course higher compared to older items. Always wash new clothes thoroughly. With a natural detergent and preferably a few times.
Other toxic substances in children's clothing
But the list doesn't stop there. You can find many other harmful substances in children's clothing. Examples include nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs, used as an emulsifier), plasticizers/phthalates (for suppleness and pliability) and amines in azo dyes (to color clothing). Both NPEs and plasticizers are associated with endocrine disruption. And azo dyes can be split into amines, which may be carcinogenic. Toxic chlorophenols can also be used to bleach textiles. And then you have the heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and chromium that are found in clothes. In her book To Dye For: How Toxic Fashion Is Making Us Sick - and How We Can Fight Back, Alden Wicker discusses this in detail.
Healthier children's clothing is organic
When it comes to the little ones, we believe you should be as careful as possible. So also with their clothing. We therefore recommend that you avoid synthetic and processed materials as much as possible and focus on natural, organic materials such as organic cotton (not just cotton because that is heavily sprayed), organic wool, organic linen or organic silk. You get it: the keyword is organic. Our advice: preferably only buy children's clothing with a GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) . That is currently the strictest standard there is for clothing. This certificate takes into account the entire production chain and confirms that a raw material is grown without GMOs or chemicals and that no prohibited toxic substances are used during processing and dyeing.
Why undyed and unbleached children's clothing?
If you really want to be on the safe side , don't just look for organic, but undyed and unbleached children's clothing. Then you can be sure that the clothes have not been treated with toxic dyes and bleaches (ok, you never know for sure, but you get the idea). In fact, the original material is simply left alone as much as possible. So really back to basics . In our opinion, this is currently the safest option in the clothing world. However, you will (unfortunately) not easily encounter this option among the major fashion magnates. Fortunately, there are plenty of smaller companies that do sell undyed and unbleached clothing. Think of brands such as Joha, Engel Natur and Cosilana. The German company Hessnatur even has a separate category for undyed and unbleached children's clothing . Did you know that you can easily dye your clothes yourself with natural resources? You can brighten up a garment in no time with beetroot or yellow turmeric. No toxins needed.
Buy less but better
Furthermore, when shopping, always pay attention to the smell of clothing (a strong odor often indicates a high concentration of chemicals) and always do some research before purchasing an item. Check the labels and product information and ask the seller questions if necessary. Buy from companies you trust and feel good about. Second-hand children's clothing can also be a good idea, because many toxic substances have been washed out. Be extra careful with waterproof outdoor clothing, rainwear and rain boots because water resistance is often a red flag for PFAS . And above all: buy less but better! You really aren't doing your child any favors with 100 synthetic sets in his wardrobe, no matter how cute.
Disclaimer (Do Your Own Research): We are happy to share with you our experiences and knowledge that we have gained in our search for a toxic-free life. At the same time, we would like to emphasize that you are solely responsible for your health (that goes without saying, right?). The information we share here is for general educational purposes and is not personalized medical advice. Everyone is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.
*This blog contains affiliate links, which means if you click on the affiliate link and purchase an item, we will receive a commission. This allows us to test new products and expand the less toxic community. Want to know more about how we select products and maintain our integrity? View our selection procedure .