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Synthetic Fibers

Synthetic Fiber

Synthetic fibers are made of synthetic materials, usually formed through chemical processes. Compounds used to make synthetic fibers come from petroleum-based chemicals or petrochemicals. Viscose comes from pine trees or petrochemicals, while nylon, acrylic, and polyester come from coal and oil.

What is in Synthetic Fibers
Many hazardous chemicals are used to manufacture synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers that are produced from petroleum, like nylon and polyester, are not biodegradable. More than 20% of industrial water pollution is caused by the synthetic fiber industry. The contaminated water is pumped into rivers, seas and oceans and ends up killing aquatic life.

During the manufacturing of polyester, two highly toxic chemicals, namely dihydric alcohol and terephthalic acid, are used. Neither is completely removed from the fiber and can enter the body through wet skin, causing dermatitis and respiratory diseases.

Carbon disulfide, sulfuric acid, acetone, ammonia, and caustic soda are used when rayon is manufactured. These chemicals can cause muscle pain, nausea, headaches, and insomnia.

When acrylic fiber is made, acrylonitrile is used. Even in small doses it is toxic and can be carcinogenic.

Nylon relies on petroleum for manufacturing. It goes through many chemical treatments during manufacturing using caustic soda, sulphuric acid, and formaldehyde. Chloroform, pentane, limonene, and terpineol are used during the bleaching and softening processes. Many of these toxins remain in the fabric.

Advantages of Using Synthetic Fibers: 

  • Synthetic fibers provide cheaper alternatives to natural products. Many synthetic fabrics are imitation versions of natural fabrics, like wool and silk.
  • Synthetic fabrics tend to be more stain resistant, and some are even designed to resist staining, therefor synthetic clothing can be great for daily, regular wear.
  • synthetic fibers can be designed to be almost completely waterproof so they are great for outdoor and rain gear

 Disadvantages of Synthetic Fibers: 

  • Synthetic fibers have poor insulation as the mono-fibers do not have air pockets that will trap air.
  • Some people are allergic to synthetic fibers. Textile dermatitis is a skin reaction causing redness, itchiness, and inflammation after the skin has been in contact with synthetic fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers are not biodegradable.
  • Synthetics stick to the body when it is hot and sweaty as it doesn’t absorb moisture.
  • It burns more easily than natural fibers, making it a hazard in the vicinity of heat sources or flames from fireplaces.
  • Hot washing and ironing damage synthetic fibers.
  • More electrostatic charge is generated when rubbing than with natural fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers cause microplastic pollution when washed.
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