Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Fleece

I had not turned up the heat and was feeling cold. Where was my fleece vest, so easy to throw over a wool sweater? I located it in a pile of laundry. There’s nothing like being encased in plastic, is there? Still, fleece should not be on your holiday gift list. Make imminent disengagement one of your new year’s resolutions for 2012.

Oh, I know. Polar fleece is so soft and appealing. Sven wears it. I wear it. Even my grandson wears it.

We must not forget the fact that polar fleece remains a synthetic. The PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, or polyester. We hear the word RECYCLED and cheer, but whoa. Other factors come into play …

First off, the popularity of fleece would seem, to some people, a good excuse to continue using plastic water bottles. They are all recycled, right? Hardly. What’s more, fleece is not always made from plastic water bottles. Some companies don’t bother.

Inventor Aaron Feurerstein did not patent his new fabric, made of recycled plastic, in the hope the idea would really take off. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. But, non-recycled fleece exists, too. It’s made from non-renewable petroleum derivatives, according to Wikipedia.

Fleece is available at Wellfleet Marketplace, and Preservation Hall. For several years I have bought no new polar fleece but continue to wear second-hand picked up in thrift stores. Now comes word that fleece must not only be second-hand, but also rarely washed. Did you know washing fleece is bad for marine life? HUH? Yup. That’s what a study showed last month. 2000 polyester fibers shake loose from one piece of fleece clothing. Here in Wellfleet, where laundry rinse flows through our septic systems into the harbor, breeding-grounds supreme for clams and oysters, we should think twice about those micro-plastics being absorbed by shellfish. Read all about it in this recent Grist article.

And, what about fleece clothing for my grandson? I tend to think it should be avoided whenever possible, too. Blanket My Baby explains why go organic, “Organic products have increased benefits for babies and children. Because of their high metabolism and low body weights, children are especially susceptible to toxins. The young brain develops rapidly from conception to age three. Babies absorb more toxins per pound of body weight than adults. It is especially important during these years to choose toxin-free products.”

And, from “Researchers at Tufts Medical School noticed that cancer cells being grown in the lab multiplied more quickly in polyester test tubes than in glass. It appears that polyester slowly emits phytoestrogens, which are endocrine disruptors, or compounds similar to estrogen, which can promote certain types of cancer.”

Shoot! Another reason to avoid fleece. Have you given it up yet?