Fluorescent pink, neon green, turquoise blue and bright orange are some of the colours that you see in sports wear today, made from what is known as dri fit fabric and supposed to keep you sweat free and cool through your workout. As with most fads, you can see this spreading like venom through society, as more and more people are switching from traditional cottons and other natural fabrics to this new age fabric with many promises. I’m sorry if this is going to make you angry or bothered, but seeing more and more people, sadly even students of yoga, switching to this clothing, is making me angry and it’s making me sad. The more awareness that is created around this, the better!
It probably does stick to your skin like a glove emphasising your figure, it probably does make you feel your sweat less, it probably does come in attractive colours that complement various people and it probably is the coolest sports wear today. So why do you need to know more about this?
These fabrics are polyester that moves sweat away from the body and to the fabric surface, where it evaporates. There are multiple questionable associations around these fabrics and it’s important that we go through them one by one.
Firstly, in 2015, the firm of Jones & Swanson represented and reported a case of a young boy who was wearing shorts made of this fabric, who was established to be standing quite far away from a campfire, when in fact his shorts sparked, ignited and when he tried to roll on the ground, as we are all taught to, his hands caught fire as well. His cotton socks were untouched by the flames. His parents were sure it was related to his clothes, and claimed the company producing the fabric did not even warn consumers that it was flammable. His friends were horrified as his shorts melted and dripped molten dri fit on his shins! While the case might still be ongoing, it did give people the thought for caution. In fact, the oldest advice in the words of our grandparents when it came to firecrackers has always been to wear only cottons. Yes, we can go on to say that we will not be near a fire during our workouts, but this is just one point of concern.
What is of bigger concern today, given that more and more people are wearing dri fit sports wear, is that more and more public health advocates are showing concern over the connection between these fabrics and various dangerous health conditions including endocrine disruption, cancer, and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system. Testing done across multiple mega sports brands have found high levels of pthalates in these fabrics. Pthalates are a group of industrial chemicals used across multiple industries. Pthalates can enter your body through your breath, through food, and through touch via your skin. Pthalates can damage your fatty acids, can cause zinc deficiency, damages your pancreas, affects your liver’s ability to detoxify, disrupts multiple endocrine function, and can cause high cholesterol and yet not allow your body to make use of the cholesterol in a good way for your brain. Studies also listed pthalates as one of the causes for affecting your child’s brain development. Everything from Autism to ADHD has been linked to pthalates. More and more mega sports brands are flooding the world with dri fit wear made for kids. This might be attractive now, but it is setting the stage for multiple challenging conditions in the future.
In a much older publication in 2012, by The European Consumer Organisation, football jerseys of nine countries was tested. It was found across all of them, there were carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting compounds. While companies might try and prove otherwise, the study also pointed out that these dri fit clothing fabrics were particularly harmful in sportswear, since sweating and abration could cause these toxic compounds to enter the human body. Let’s not even go into the area of how many of the chemicals and dyes used in this industry is even truly regulated.
Adding all of this together, most people today have challenges with their liver and their ability to detoxify. This could be genetic but it could also be because your liver is just tired of cleaning up all the mess that you put into your body. Most of these dri fit sportswear contain Dimethylformamide or DMF which is used in manufacturing this fabric is known to cause liver damage. Dri fit clothes, especially worn everyday and used during exercise, where there is sweating and there is abration or friction between your skin and the fabric, is going to make you absorb the toxic compounds from polyester, pthalates, dyes and much more. This is going to overload your liver, and in turn impact everything from your hormones to your brain. Is that colourful contoured dri fit clothing worth taking a chance on something as precious as your body and your brain? Or would you rather skip waiting for studies to come out after a decade, when drastic damage has been done, and just switch to age old cottons or linens? After all, in todays’ world nothing speaks style better than cotton!