When ethical bed linen designer Tarsha Burn, of Organic Bed Threads, decided to create a socially conscious label; removing the use of chemicals in textile production was a top priority. The concept was developed in Tarsha’s Northern Beaches apartment in Sydney, which was later sold to support her humanitarian textile venture.
“I was equally concerned with the farmers and artisans producing the Organic Bed Threads duvet cover range, as well as my customers purchasing the finished item,” said Tarsha, which is why her range is certified to a 100% Global Organic Textile Standard. “There has been enough research conducted to establish that chemical treatments on textiles, such as phthalates and azo dyes are hazardous to human health and to the environment.”
Greenpeace International and the Swedish Chemicals Agency have established that the regulation, tracking and reporting of over 2,400 chemicals commonly used in textile production does not prevent the hazards posed by the 10% of commonly used chemicals in textiles that have been linked to cancer and hormonal disruption in humans.
“It’s all well and good to say that chemicals are harmless when the product is used as per the manufacturers instruction, when it only comes into contact with the skin,” says Tarsha “but what happens when a plethora of chemicals used in the production of a fabric comes into a more intimate, longer term contact such as our bedlinen?
Our largest organ, the skin, sweats at a minimum of 500 milliliters per night. Scientists estimate our body sheds between 30-40,000 skin cells per hour. We also experience ill health, oily and dry skin from time to time, that further adds to the skin elimination process. Some suffer from skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. It makes sense we need to allow our skin to breathe with as natural a covering as possible and limit the amount of chemical penetration for our skin to regenerate”.
The benefits of living an organic lifestyle are numerous, yet little is detailed about the benefits of organic textiles to cover our bodies. Organic cotton is an excellent fabric for sensitive skin, be that adult or child, it causes fewer allergies and is said to reduce respiratory problems. Certified organic is even more superior, given its transparent declaration, in Organic Bed Threads instance, it is 100% devoid of chemicals. Whilst apartments come in all shapes and sizes, the average footprint is smaller than a standard home, thus it stands to reason that the volume of chemicals in apartments is larger.
Tarsha adds, “Chemical traces can remain in fabrics, even after washing. Our skin is absorbing and releasing chemicals from our environment all day, every day, and some of these are stored in our bodies, as are the accumulation of fine fabric fibers. This is called bioaccumulation, which weakens your immune system.
All we have to do to recognise that textile fibers don’t stay within the fabric is to open the lint collector on our dryers. We know that they disperse into the home environment, as do any residual chemicals, which means we inhale them every day of our lives. We simply don’t know all the risks we are being exposed to.”
Tarsha’s journey to source a 100% chemical free product took 2.5 years in research and development and many an intrepid month of rickshaw meetings across India. This was in order to find the right supplier for the certified organic cotton as well as a manufacturer who would use certified organic complaint dyes and threads to ensure that the creative designs were 100% safe for skin-to-skin contact.
Part of the solution to preventing chemicals entering the supply chain was to support a revival of handmade artisan traditions. “I have a deep commitment to supporting artisan traditions such as woodblock printing, applique and hand embroidery” says Tarsha. “Organic dyes that are safe for our bedrooms and beautiful to look at, are strong priorities for my production.”
Tarsha’s determination to create an entirely ethical business meant she had to be hands on all the way from farm to linen closet. “Half the struggle was over once I found a manufacturer who was fair and respectful to their artisan makers. After that I had to really push to get them certified organic. It was a long process but so worth it in the end.” said Tarsha
Organic Bed Threads handmade, ethical and 100% organic cotton bed linen range make ideal conscious Christmas gifts, and are available in designs for children and adults at www.organicbedthreads.com