The hidden dangers of polyester clothing

The material has been linked to infertility, and can reek havoc on the environment

Joseph Klosinski, Opinions Writer

Polyester fabrics have become commonplace as a psychological operation to convince the average consumer that polyester is a safe material. Polyester has proliferated in the consumer market, making its way into clothing, undergarments, bedding, furniture, and more. Polyester remains popular in the market despite its castrating abilities and being an environmental hazard.

Clothing made from polyester is harmful because it is an endocrine disruptor. Research published by the National Library of Medicine links polyester with causing infertility in humans and dogs. According to a study by A. Shafik’s (from the National Center on Biotechnology Information), 14 men wearing polyester scrotum slings became “azoospermic after a mean of 139.6 +/- 20.8 [standard deviation] days” and experienced a decreased testicular volume. The men in the study experienced a decreased sperm count due to their sensitive skin’s exposure to polyester. A decreased sperm count is associated with difficulties in reproduction and reduced testosterone, meaning more infertile men. Polyester cripples the male reproductive system. 

Shafik also studied the effect of polyester on the female dog’s sexual health. In the female dog study, the “eight [female dogs] wearing polyester-containing textile showed diminished serum progesterone in the oestrus of the oestrous cycle, and did not conceive on mating or insemination,” according to Shafik. Polyesters cause the endocrine system to secrete a diminished amount of progesterone in the female dog’s body, making the female dog sterile. While women are different from female dogs, both species excrete progesterone to procreate. To maximize fertility, people should not use polyester undergarments.

Further, polyester is detrimental to the environment because it creates pollution. The development of microplastics can be attributed to polyester, which is a significant hazard to the environment and human health. Microplastics bypass sewage filtering and water refineries, meaning they are leaching into the waterways. Additionally, microplastics lack biodegradability, so they continuously accumulate, becoming more prevalent.

“Polyester breaks down into microplastics, and those microplastics accumulate in organisms up the food chain, ending at humans,” said AP Environmental student, senior Dylan Selby.

Polyester contributes to the microplastics issue, as the University of Plymouth found that “Laundering an average washing load of 6kg [13.2 lbs] could release an estimated 137,951 fibres from polyester-cotton blend fabric, 496,030 fibres from polyester and 728,789 from acrylic.”

All fabric breaks down with use; however, by-products of synthetic fabrics, like polyester, are perilous to humans because they are plastic. Plastic does not biodegrade, so it persists in the ocean and accumulates in the marine food chain. Microplastics then accumulate in the human body from seafood because our bodies cannot dispose of them. The pollution from polyester ultimately punishes the species that invented it.

 Though polyester is harmful to the body, it is beneficial for companies to use because of its profitability. Oil companies gain profit because polyester is made from oil derivatives, and textile companies gain profit because polyester is a cheap material. Corporations suppress information about polyester to prevent a consumer boycott.  

Consumers should evaluate the products they possess and purchase to make more educated choices for their health and the environment. To be more environmentally conscious, people should thrift or repurpose clothing and dispose of it only after it is worn out. Cotton and other natural fabrics are preferred to reduce the manufacturing of microplastics.