Cotton kills – the ‘dirty’ crop which claims the lives of pickers

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Cotton conjures up such positive mental images:  the softness of cotton wool on the face and the cool feel of cotton against the skin.

Unfortunately the realities of cotton production are very different and making a small change to both shopping habits and beauty routine can benefit the user, the environment and the people who pick and process cotton into the products we use every day.

Cotton is considered to be a ‘dirty’ crop because of the heavy use of insecticides which are hazardous to health and to the environment. 99% of all cotton farmers live in the developing world and 75% of the world’s cotton is produced in these countries. Not only do chemical residues remain in the cotton, making their way into the animal feed chain and water supply, it is then treated with bleaches and dyes before becoming our everyday products.

The cost to the cotton workers’ health is high: it is estimated that 1 million agricultural workers worldwide are admitted to hospital with pesticide poisoning each year. Cotton pickers (usually women) are also at risk, especially from reproductive disorders and exposure to chemicals when pregnant or breastfeeding, in turn passing the toxins on to their children. Cotton workers are continually at risk from a range of cancers and other life-threatening health conditions.

Changing to organic cotton products can bring significant and wide-ranging benefits to both people and planet. Fashion designer Katherine Hammett famously supports organic cotton farming and has spoken out of the toll on both human health and the environment of global cotton production.

A small yet significant step can be made by changing to organic cotton products. Joanne Blaylock from Organyc says:

“Organyc products are made with certified 100% organic cotton which has been grown without the use of pesticides or bleached with chlorine during production.  Cotton beauty products are in daily contact with our skin and it is especially important to consider the health impact of non-organic cotton products when using intimate sanitary protection.

“A small change in switching to organic cotton beauty and sanitary products can have far-reaching effects not only on your own life, but on the lives of literally millions of others and will bring real benefits for the environment”.

The Organyc range includes cotton wall balls, pads and buds; tampons, panty liners and sanitary pads.  Their wash and wipes range includes intimate wash, feminine hygiene wet wipes and recently introduced baby wipes.

Stockists and prices

Available from and at all good independent health stores nationwide.

Cotton wool products from £2.39 for 100 cotton wall balls

Sanitary protection prices from £3.10 for 24 panty liners

Wet Wipes from £2.99 for 20 wipes

Baby Wipes cost £4.99 for 60 wipes

Information sources:

Organic Trade Association

Institute of Science in Society

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