The Human Impact Of Conventional Cotton

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 8 months ago | News

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It is no secret that conventional cotton farming is harmful for the planet. According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), it covers 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land but uses 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of insecticides. But what about the human impact of this dirty crop? This is less widely reported upon, yet it is just as important.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “poisoning is a significant global public health problem.” In 2012, WHO estimated that 193,460 people died worldwide from unintentional chemical (including pesticide) poisoning and most of these exposures were preventable. Even when deaths aren’t occurring, though, PAN’s report (Is Cotton Conquering Its Chemical Addiction) shows that human health is still being placed at risk.

This is particularly an issue when it comes to female reproductive health. Glyphosate, for example, is a herbicide that’s commonly used on cotton crops. This is despite the fact that it has been found to have “genotoxic effects and interaction with hormones have [also] been reported, as well as reproductive, developmental, immune and neurological effects.” Similarly, another common insecticide lambda cyhalothrin has also been “classified as an endocrine disruptor and can present reproductive toxicity.” 

As a result of these sorts of chemicals being used in conventional cotton farming today, women that live in and around the affected areas have been found to experience related reproductive issues. According to a study on organochlorine pesticides and female puberty in South Kazakhstan, for example, “increased concentrations of pesticides in the blood of women and girls living in cotton-growing regions is associated with delayed physical and sexual development, relatively late puberty, and reduced level of two specific hormones.”

With this in mind, better education is desperately needed around the effects of conventional cotton on worker health (and particularly female reproductive health) right now. Either way, we cannot continue to ignore the human impact of conventional cotton.

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