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Sometimes our budgets won't stretch to slapping solar panels on our homes or installing wood pellet boilers. Or maybe you live in rented accommodation and do not have control over the heating and plumbing.
Yet there is one thing that everyone wears and everyone can buy. It will be a kindness to the earth and a kindness to the people who harvest the raw material.
We all wear knickers. Or as they might be more politely termed 'pants'. Or in Victorian euphemisms 'under clothing.'
Cotton is the most heavily sprayed and chemically treated crop in the world. For many of the workers who plant, tend and harvest this crop there is no special training on the dangers of handling toxic chemicals. For many developing world countries workers do not have unions who ensure that workers get protective clothing and masks so that they do not breath in the fumes from pesticides and herbicides.
In the 1960s DDT was used routinely in the seaside resort where we visited my aunt. This was to kill mosquitoes, the scourge of the Eastern Seaboard in summer. Not good for tourism. Despite Rachel Carson's warning about the damage to ecology from DDT in her book Silent Spring, it took well over twenty years before it was banned in the USA.
It was promptly exported to countries without a ban. In the 1970s my partner saw a dog die in agony in India; his owner thought he was helping the dog get rid of the fleas. There were no warnings about how to handle this chemical.
Statistics vary widely on the ill effects suffered by cotton workers in the 'third world.' Some estimate that there are 20,000 deaths caused by accidents to do with agricultural cotton growing.
Chronic illness is less easy to track in rural areas. Moreover, you have to have the will and the cash to pay someone to do a long term study. This may, or may not be forthcoming.
So I won't argue the length or breadth or magnitude of the bad news for a cotton worker who has experienced the bad end of a chemical spill. It's bad news for that person in one way or other. It's bad news for their family if they become ill and cannot work and therefore, cannot support their family.
One action that everyone can do to help the environment and create a less polluted planet is to insist that every single piece of underclothing we buy - socks, t-shirts and knickers - be made from organically grown cotton, hemp, silk, bamboo or wool.
If capitalism and market forces rule the world then we need to convince the money powers that organic cotton is the only acceptable fabric to put next to our skin.
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