Environmental Impact of the Polyester Industry

Polyester is a synthetic-organic textile fabric derived from fossil fuels. Although inexpensive and widely available, polyester wreaks havoc on the environment. Polyester factories are responsible for massive amounts of air pollution and water pollution, and may cause human health problems. Organic and reclaimed fabrics offer a much more environmentally friendly alternative to these harsh synthetic materials.

Petroleum Derivation

Polyester is made directly from petroleum, and it requires petroleum-based energy for production. Because of its fossil fuel sourcing, polyester is inherently unsustainable. The petroleum industry is responsible for large amounts of carbon dioxide pollution, a major contributing factor to global warming. Other by-products of petroleum include acid rain, smog, water pollution and increased human cancer rates.

Global Warming

The polyester industry is responsible for significant amounts of carbon pollution, the leading cause of global warming. Additionally, the synthetic fabric industry emits nitrous oxide– a gas which, according to Green Choices, entraps heat 310 times more than carbon dioxide. Global warming is one of the most significant ecological hazards today, and the polyester industry is a major contributing factor.

Water Pollution

Compounds involved in polyester production can cause significant water pollution. Dying, washing and chemical treatments waste large amounts of water. The unfixed dyes may be washed into streams and rivers, where they can poison wildlife and hinder sunlight’s penetration into the water. This could, in turn, lead to eutrophication and the die-off of plants and animals. Heavy metals, dioxins and chlorine involved in polyester production can also harm water-dwelling wildlife.

Heath Problems

Polyester production often includes the use of heavy metals, including the toxic metal antimony trioxide. Antimony harms human skin, lungs, hearts and livers. Chlorine bleach, used to produce almost all textiles, releases carcinogens known as dioxins, which can also impair fertility. Other potentially toxic chemicals used in polyester production include polyvinylchloride (PVC) and formaldehyde. Long-term exposure to these compounds can trigger serious health problems, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

References

Green Choices: Environmental Impacts of Clothing

Natural Environment: Why Recycled Polyester Isn’t Necessarily Eco-Friendly