Gym Clothes Alert: Leaching Toxic Chemicals

“While running on the treadmill, our focus is often on music and distance rather than clothing composition. Athletic wear, including.

“While running on the treadmill, our focus is often on music and distance rather than clothing composition. Athletic wear, including favorite sports bras and leggings, typically comprises plastic-like materials, such as Spandex, nylon, and polyester, made from petrochemicals. These substances often contain harmful chemical additives like phthalates and bisphenols.


What did the review find?

Recent studies show that when we sweat, chemicals from plastics can come out and get into our skin. The research looked at flame retardants, which can cause health problems like issues with the thyroid and hormones. Scientists at the University of Birmingham found that the oil in sweat helps these chemicals to come out of the plastics.

According to Dr. Mohamed Abdallah, an associate professor at the University of Birmingham, these findings suggest a link between sweat, plastic fibers, and chemical absorption. Although initial testing revolved around flame retardants not commonly associated with sportswear, more investigation is needed. The team intends to explore the extent of chemical absorption from synthetic sportswear during intense exercise.


This study is significant as it sheds light on potential exposure to plastic chemicals through the skin. Chemicals in plastics tend to accumulate in the body, possibly leading to health implications due to prolonged exposure.

What difference does this make?

Recent findings in Environmental Pollution revealed 25 flame retardants in breast milk, even those phased out in the US. Another study noted increased cancer rates among younger Americans, likely attributed to exposure to harmful pollutants.”

Alden Wicker’s book ‘To Dye For’ emphasizes how clothing exposes us to chemicals. Manufacturers often incorporate PFAS into workout wear, particularly in ‘sweat-wicking’ or water-repellent clothing. They dye polyester with skin-irritating disperse dyes. Researchers highlight over 13,000 plastic chemicals, underscoring the necessity for improved safety standards.

Manufacturers often lack knowledge about their product ingredients. To minimize exposure, choose natural textiles certified by organizations like GOTS and OEKO-TEX. Although California’s Proposition 65 requires warnings, consistent federal regulations are essential. Many consumers show interest in plastic-free sportswear, but a gradual shift from synthetics is advisable, especially for health-conscious individuals.

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