It can take almost a 1/3 pound of synthetic fertilizers to grow one pound of raw cotton in the US, and it takes just under one pound of raw cotton to make one t-shirt (4).
The cottonseed hull, where many pesticide residues have been detected, is a secondary crop sold as a food commodity. It is estimated that as much as 65% of cotton production ends up in our food chain, whether directly through food oil or indirectly through the milk and meat of animals (1).
The developing world is home to 99% of all cotton farmers and produces 75% of the world's total cotton, so it bears the brunt of cotton's environmental and health concerns (1).
During the conversion of cotton into conventional clothing, many hazardous materials are used and added to the product, including silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde-just to name a few (8).
(1) EJF. (2007). The deadly chemicals in cotton. Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK: London, UK. ISBN No. 1-904523-10-2.
(2) Whitford, F., Pike, D., Burroughs, F., Hanger, G. Johnson, B., & Brassard, D. (2006). The pesticide marketplace: Discovering and developing new products. Purdue University Extension, report # PPP-71.
(3) Chaudhry, M.R., (2007, March 6-8). Biotech applications in cotton: Concerns and challenges. Paper presented at the Regional Consultation on Biotech Cotton for Risk Assessment and Opportunities for Small Scale Cotton Growers (CFC/ICAC 34FT), Faisalabad, Pakistan.
(4) Lauresn, S. E., Hansen, J., Knudsen, H. H., Wenzel, H., Larsen, H. F., & Kristensen, F. M. (2007). EDIPTEX: Environmental assessment of textiles. Danish Environmental Protection Agency, working report 24.
(5) Kramer, S. B., Reganold, J. P., Glover, J. D., Bohannan, B. J. M., & Mooney, H. A. (2006). Reduced nitrate leaching and enhanced denitrifier activity and efficiency in organically fertilized soils. PNAS, 103 (12), 4522-4527.
(6) Tilman, D., Cassman, K., Matson, P., Naylor, R., & Polasky, S. (2002). Nature (418), 71-677.
(7) de Sam Lazaro, F. (2007). The dying fields: India's forgotten farmers [Television series episode]. In WNET (producer), Wide Angle. New York: Public Broadcasting Station.
(8) Kadolph, S. J., & Langford, A. L. (2002). Textiles (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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