PhotoWhat's in your clothes? Well, you are, of course, but there are also thousands of chemicals in clothing, some of them not very pleasant, Swedish researchers have found.

A Stockholm University professor, Giovanna Luongo, tested 60 garments and found thousands of chemicals. She and her team identified about 100, including several that were not on the manufacturer's ingredients list. Some may have been added during transport.

"Exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of allergic dermatitis, but more severe health effect for humans as well as the environment could possibly be related to these chemicals. Some of them are suspected or proved carcinogens and some have aquatic toxicity," Luongo said.

Depending on occurrence, quantity, toxicity, and how easily they may penetrate the skin, four groups of substances were chosen for further analysis. The highest concentrations of two of these, quinolines and aromatic amines, were found in polyester. Cotton contained high concentrations of benzothiazoles, even clothes made from organic cotton.

Came out in the wash

The researchers washed the clothes and then measured the levels of chemicals. Some of the substances were washed off, with a risk of ending up in aquatic environments. Others remained in the clothes, becoming a potential source of long-term dermal exposure.

 The researchers said it's difficult to know if the levels of these harmful substances are hazardous, and what effects chemicals in our clothes can have in the long run.

"We have only scratched the surface, this is something that has to be dealt with. Clothes are worn day and night during our entire life. We must find out if textile chemicals go into our skin and what it means to our health. It is very difficult to assess and requires considerably more research," said Conny Östman, Professor in Analytical Chemistry at Stockholm University. 

The researchers' complete report is available online

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