Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where's the Corn in Clothing?

When you're dealing with a corn allergy, you're always on guard. It's there, everything that is packaged is carefully scrutinized for those tell tale words that mean "corn". And then, when the ingredient list passes the first scrutinization; you double check the packaging and call the company to verify that the ingredients of each ingredient is, indeed, safe for you to consume.

But sometimes, corn still sneaks up and bites you.

One of the most innocent seeming things is fabric. You wear it. You sleep on it. You wrap yourself up in it on a cold day. And shopping can be a fun, food free venture for the teenager in all of us.

Trying on clothes. Its as easy as pie. Easier, if you have a normal body style and like the current fashions.

Where could the harm come?

Unfortunately, as the corn growers association stretches the limit of their imaginations; and environmentalists stretch the limits of their imaginations, and anthropologists study the buying trends of the general public (We want sustainable goods! From new, natural, renewable resources!) corn finds its way into increasingly unexpected places.

Before trying on that dashing new blouse or flirty black dress, check the label. 100% cotton, or bamboo, or acrylic or even spandex might be okay. But if that label reads Ingeo, Natureworks PLA (From Cargill-Dow), Sorona or even simply "Corn Fibre"; buyer beware of even trying it on. Watch out for company issued uniform shirts too.

The main controversy against fitting humans out as corn husk dolls? The corn used to make many of these fabrics is genetically engineered. While that is a problem in and of itself, I'd like to know more about the potential for allergic reaction. As corn is considered hypoallergenic by many standards, and is an "all natural" fiber (as a native crop to the Americas) the labels are deceptively misleading. And how long does it really take to track down a mild rash? Or simple itching and discomfort? In our society we've learned to tune out our own instincts. Just look how long we used polyester. It's still in use, we just tend to blend it with breathable cotton for comfort sake.

Corn fabric is also being integrated into carpets, upholstery, mattresses, bedding, towels, and yarn.

And even if your fabric is certified, 100% cotton (and organic to boot); there's still the danger that it was washed in corn-laden laundry detergent. Read the ingredients of Seventh Generation or Natureclean to see corn proudly listed as a source ingredient on the label. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Corn is a better option for the environment than petroleum based chemicals that won't biodegrade into our soil. However...its still a safety issue for those of us who have allergic reactions to even minute amounts of the golden crop.

Clothes on store shelves may also be sprayed with anti-wrinkle agents, whose main ingredient is...you'll never guess...Yup, that's right...cornstarch. There are rumors from employees that similar measures are taken at second hand stores, clothing that looks more presentable is simply more salable. Luckily, a thorough washing should dissolve any corn-y residue...its just that anyone who is contact sensitive needs to beware.

2 comments:

maubs said...

I made the mistake of wearing a new undershirt, unwashed, fresh from the package, at my first day of a new job. I missed the second day with a terrible rash under my armpits that was driving me crazy, and was only bearable the day after.
The number of industries that seem to be conspiring to kill us (the corn-allergic) is astonishing.

Anonymous said...

Be careful of polyuethane fabrics! The nice new little bikers jackets coming on the market are pretty much all made from this corn material.