Holding Clothing Clothing Companies Accountable

Can we do that? Hold companies accountable for their actions? Especially, now that many outsource the manufacturing of their products to places like China, where there are very low standards for the types of chemicals used. I’m no expert on clothing manufacturing—lip balm and soap, yes—or chemical standards either, for that matter, but, like most mums (and dads), and people who care about our Earth, I’m wising up pretty quickly: Europe have stricter standards for the use of chemicals (having reversed the insane practice of making people carry The Burden of Proof into the more sane, Precautionary Principle; therefore, making it so companies have to carry the Burden of Proof to prove that their chemicals are safe before flooding the market with them, rather than, how it is in Australia and the US, making us prove they are not safe, before taking them off the market); so buying products that are made over in Europe is a much safer bet. In the US, things are slowly changing; and when that happens, Australia may follow. (Australia, why are we so far behind? The closet thing we have is this. Our Government couldn’t give two hoots in an owl’s nest.) As for products made in China? It’s a game of hit and miss. Especially when certain chemicals, chemicals I’ve been tested for, effect my health. Petrochemicals, solvents, and the chemicals in polyester, and synthetic rubber can all be a problem. I say can, because many can be aired out, or washed until they are no longer a problem.

But you see, I don’t want to do that anymore. And, besides, this post, as most of my fashion posts are, is about Shoes! And, Shoes don’t wash that well. Runners, maybe; but leather and suede? Washing them would ruin them. So, for me, new Shoes need to be aired. And some have never outgassed because of the cheap-synthetic-petrochemical-emmitting rubber fumes coming from them—two years after purchase!. Like my gorgeous Green Strappy Emerald Heels that I blogged about, a while back. They still sit mummified, wrapped in foil, in their shoe box. I’ve kept them (can’t bare to part with them—yet‽). But my awesome looking Black Witchy Heels, written about in the same post? I’ve decided to pack up ready to give to my favourite-charity like organisation. The petrol-y vapours coming from them are just too potent! They were only aired outside for a whole year; I just couldn’t be bothered trying to work with them anymore. (Imagine wearing them in a hot car? Err, no thank you.) I’ve had enough. And so have others. Have you ever heard of someone starting a revolution from their bed?

 

That’s what I am doing today: I’m going to start a revolution from my bed. Here’s one for you. I, Michellina van Loder, will no longer be a slave to Shoes that give me a headache. (A literal headache: caused from breathing in the chemicals emitted from a new pair of Shoes!) I, Michellina van Loder, will no longer be a serf to the companies who charge me money so that they can (unintentionally? Absentmindedly? Negligently? Legally‽) give me many headaches (and other symptoms) from their products. (The literal temple-throbbing-sinus-aching headache caused by inhaling the chemical irritants they have used to make the shoes. And, don’t get me started on the metaphorical headaches caused by the constant airing of these shoes; or the amount of times I have put them in the sun, trying to get them to outgas their chemical components; or the, oh-my-god-my-new-$180-shoes-are-out-in-the-rain! type of freaky stress caused by the need to guard them—who needs metaphorical headaches while trying to live an actual life, you know?

All of these headaches I can avoid by either, simply not buying from these companies or returning their products with the reasons why, and if needed, yes, a doctor’s letter to back up my reason. (Talk about the consumer carrying the burden of proof.) A company who looks after their customers, in the financial way, but not generally, the chemical way, like Ezibuy, or Target (yet, to have a problem with TheIconic), will offer to pay the cost of returning the product. Even after you’ve washed the bejesus out of it. Did you know that? If you buy a product, and you wash it (and wash it), and it’s still causing health problems, you can return it? Well, stay posted, I’ve got a beef coming up with Target, and a couple of tea-towels that… Look I digress, I’ll get to that next week, after I’ve contacted them (via a post about their products!) So, know this: you can return products if you are not happy with them, and nice companies will pay for the return and give you your money back. You, can hold companies accountable, just like I do. And pledge to do from now on. Anyway, these little beauties are the bane of this post:

 

These Wedge Boots, I bought from Ezibuy: somewhere where I’ve been buying most of my clothes since I developed various chemical sensitivities 9.5 years ago. (Except, for when I recovered in ’09 -’10; for two years, I shopped my butt off at all the designer outlet shops, racking up lots of shoes.  (That, I’m now discarding).) (I found out about Ezibuy from a local allergy and chemical sensitivity group, AESSRA; many members buy from them.) Also, many of our clothes used to come from Target. Grrr… But Ezibuy have… well, still are the best! The women (no men ever, answer the phones) there are so good about my returns. If it doesn’t fit, or I want another colour, I can swap it; I pay the postage to return it, but they send another one out for free. If it’s faulty has a hole in it, or reeks of chemicals, they pay for the return and the replacement.

One of the last things I bought and returned was a Isobar Merino long sleeve top: on sale for $65. I bought four (three of those were $25) (See pics below); all to be used for sleeping in. (Buying winter tops in summer is fantastic: I have time to wash, and air them, and save money. These needed only two washes, and two days out in the sun (very hot days). And I could wear them! Anyone who is sensitive to chemicals knows that that’s an awesome timeframe.) This one merino top, I had the problem with, I didn’t even bother trying on. When it came out of the plastic packet, the room and my eyes were full of fabric softener fumes (or something like that: a fragrance chemical that effects my eyes, and with continued exposure, my breathing also. Inhalant Allergies, my treating Immunologist has said).

So I rang Ezibuy, and asked the administration assistant to please tell Mr Gillespie (the owner(s); there are two brothers who run Ezibuy)) that he should keep a record of all their chemically sensitive customers, and I know that they know that there are quite a few (here in Australia, anyway), and not send them items that have been returned by other customers because they can cause us to have fragrance exposure in our own home. You see, this has happened a few times, and at first I thought, ‘Oh, Ezibuy are washing their products in scented crap like Ambra do’ (No, I won’t give Ambra my linking power!).  And I try to wash it, air it and all that. But no more. And, I just thought that, seeing I buy so much from this company, and seeing that I’m chemically sensitive, and seeing that they know I’m chemically sensitive, and seeing that everything is on computers these days (like our birthdays even. Thanks for that $20 birthday voucher, Ezibuy, I really appreciate that!), then they could put “Don’t send this customer any return products. Extreme fragrance sensitivity.” Or something akin to that onto their system. The lovely New Zealander woman on the phone thanked me for my suggestion, and said she would pass it on to Mr Gillespie. (And gave me a number to write down onto the postal details of the return item’s package, so that the Post Office knew to post it without charging me.)

This is the $25 merino ‘Pj’ top:

 

And here is the one that was returned due to fragrance contamination:

 

And this is is the review I wrote on Ezibuy’s website today in regards to the shoes:

“Although comfy, looked gorgeous—I couldn’t wait to get them off: they reek of petrochemicals. Ezibuy, these boots give me a Headache! The dyes rubbed off onto the inside of the box. Won’t buy ‘Capture’ shoes again! Mr Gillespie, don’t let standards fall: many brands, today, are made with nasty chemicals. [Think K-mart, Target, Payless shoes] Good brands, I can wear immediately. (It’s not about the smell; it’s about the chemicals.)  I need a pair of shoes I can wear now; not next winter when they’ve ‘outgassed’. “

I’ve noticed other customers commenting on detectable chemical vapours/odours coming from Ezibuy’s wool blankets that smell “kerosene-ish”. There are over six comments on the smell of the ‘Aspen Woollen Blankets’. Click here, and then on the ‘reviews’ tab to read them. I was going to purchase one, but, gratefully, read the reviews first. So, yes, thanks to the heads up, I gave these blankets a miss. It’s good that Ezibuy don’t ‘moderate’ the reviews. And these type of comments have saved me from buying products many times. This is just another way to have our voices heard over the top of the white noise of the seductive advertising for the almighty dollar. (Note, I leave many positive reviews, and I remark on the chemicals I can detect (or not), how easy it washes, or how many washes it takes to get something ‘clean’. I know that a chemically sensitive person reading it would appreciate it; and they wouldn’t feel so alone in this world.)

We are not alone: The idea of clothing and bedding having strong chemical odours is a multifaceted conundrum: It’s not just people who are chemically sensitive who, having suffered symptoms on the inhalation or touch of the item, have problems; there are people who just don’t like smells (this could be their instinct warning them about their health, or it could be related to a childhood memory of the odour, where the perception of it, and the accompanying feeling is a problem; some Autistic children have sensory overload issues that can be related to strong odours; and then, most commonly found today, are the parents who just don’t feel right wrapping their baby in something that has a strong chemical odour (instinct to be heeded).

Why can some companies make Shoes using synthetic products, yet not have them turn out reeking of petrol and other chemicals? Why can some companies make Shoes using natural products and have them turn out reeking of solvents or petrochemicals? It has to be the ‘China factor’! It doesn’t matter if the shoes are cheap or expensive. And, even good brands that I’ve been buying for ages, suddenly pop up with a style of shoe that just keeps on emitting solvents long after I’ve bought it; while the rest of their styles have always had little or no chemical odour to start with. (Look, I say odour, but it’s all about the chemical not the smell.) Natural products are not always better. And ‘chemical free’ is a misnomer: chemicals are used to manufacturer and bring us everything. Even organics. Think about the truck delivering them? Cleaning the equipment? Dyes? Packaging? So really, it’s about using chemicals smartly, and more importantly, safely. And less… I’ve had success buying shoes made by Ugg Australia, Oz Lamb, Merrell, Ziera, Asics, and Heine (Heine is an Ezibuy range, often made in Turkey, or Germany (Sometimes, made in China, when, a tad underhandedly, Ezibuy have flogged that brand off under the Heine name but with a different  ‘brand tag’ on arrival.). But these brands all cost more; hence buying winter clothes in summer, and summer in winter (You can save heaps!). Is the higher cost related to the ‘China factor’? I mean, if the products are not made in China, it seems, that they then cost more. Not all products that come from China have this problem, but it is getting worse, and more people are getting sensitive to chemicals.

Smart companies know that we don’t want to walk around breathing in fumes coming from our own clothes. And if they don’t, they’d better cotton on. Cause if they don’t, I, like many others, won’t be buying from them.

Do you return items that are emitting chemicals that bother you in some way? Do you tell the companies why? How well is your ‘enlightening them about the harsh chemicals’ in their products received? More importantly, will you help me start a revolution from my bed? Come on, hop in! It’s warm, cosy, and most of all, empowering in here…

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder

Comments

  1. Michellina Van Loder says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for your attendance in this revolution! Mmm… that raw diet sounds mighty fine as far as alkalising the body goes. I guess there are some companies who are aware of this problem more so that others. If you have some brands of shoes that you think are less chemical based than others, please share them with us. :)

    “small self sufficient communities” sounds lovely. I’m ready for the simple life. How about you?

    ♥♥♥

  2. Heather McKessor says:

    Michellina you are my hero, you GO GIRL, perhaps if we DID make these @%$#@’s more accountable for all the misery they cause us they might just make changes, it’s a criminal offence to deliberately poison someone, so WHY are clothing companies permitted to do it constantly? Anyone know a good Lawyer willing to take the scum to court for poisoning people? Class action time anyone? The burden of proof crap is the problem of course.
    Thanks for the EZIBUY info, I’ll definitely get on board there.
    Have you seen this? http://earth911.com/news/2012/11/19/puma-incycle-recyclable-clothes-shoes/ Hope you don’t mind me posting links. The sneakers are “Upcycle basket sneakers” and you can get them on special order here apparently, not sure about the rubber etc and they’re not strappy heels ;), but it’s a step in some sort of direction.

  3. Miche – This is a wonderful post. In the US May is National MCS Awareness month. I haven’t had anything purchased that seems to have been a return but I know what you mean and think we all need to help with the revolution!

  4. Thank you again Michellina, I am already with you, I have been and continue to educate the companies I purchase from. I have had to wash and wash and wash& wash one paticular dress from the online shopping channel, they accepted it back ( it was in better condition when I returned it) than when it arrived ..reeking of fragrance stench. I also have found that clothes made in Turkey, as you mentioned, do not stink of chemicals/fragrance like others probably made in China. Our policy for protecting consumers is horrific, there is no protection.
    I have written to Health and Aging ministers, and NICNAS about fragrances etc I continue to campaign when not too exhausted.
    I would like to bring attention, and change the way prescriptions are purchased. I mean you go to get a prescription ‘cos the fragrance and pollution has caused/exacerbated MCS and pneumonia has set in. The the chemist shop reeks of chemical scents and fragrances. Even when collected by someone who can still cope in that noxious environment, and the package is left outside for 7 hrs or more, you go to get it..the box “stinks” you wipe the other box..it still stinks, you wash the blister packed capsules you are forced to take. it is a nightmare as we all know.
    Drugs, asthma medications..the lot should be dispensed from a clean non fragranced environment. People are already unwell, they do not need or want the extra “hit” of toxic chemical when they try to get their scripts. It’s about time sensibility reigned within these area’s of healthcare. Signs up in doctors waiting rooms educating the public about the toxicity of fragrances in the everyday common products. People need to be educated, it should not be a situation where we with mcs are looked upon as weird. It is not us who are weird/crazy; we don’t harm an injure others as we walk about sending forth a ‘wake’ of noxious stench which floors others. I will stop my rant, I am preaching to the converted.
    Thank you again Michellina for you Labyrinth posts. Take care.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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