Bamboo To-Do...Who Knew?? Is Bamboo Fabric For You?

Bamboo Fabrics...with their lovely drape, silky-soft feel, it's no wonder they're all the rage with eco-fashionistas. With the bamboo plant being one of the most sustainable, renewable resources on the planet, you'd think it was a no-brainer. But have you ever wondered how it is that the same stuff you can make into durable floors can also be made into silky cloth?
There is another side to the story of bamboo, and it's not too pretty, in my opinion. But I leave it up to you to decide what to do about it. Bamboo is a woody, reedy grass, that grows in large stalks. It is a wonderful material to use for flooring, housing and home goods. So how does this woody stalk become a softly draping fabric? Chemical baths. Sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, to be exact. And even dilute sulphuric acid to finish the fiber. They turn the wood-like bamboo fibers into a pulp, creating a bamboo version of the oldest (since 1891) man-made fiber: Rayon. Rayon, whether it is made from bamboo, or from wood (cellulose), is created by treatment of the raw material into toxic chemical baths that create a viscous fluid which can then be spun. (and why Rayon is also called Viscose.) So it is actually a semi-synthetic fabric.
Admittedly, some of the newer methods are a bit less earth-damaging, but they all still use toxic chemicals that endanger the planet and the people that work in the factories that make it. And there are a lot of claims being made about it. So much so, the FCC has had to crack down on manufacturers and warn comsumers about the over-selling of bamboo as sustainable. The Organic Clothing Blog has a lot of information that covers both sides of the story. In the end, we agree with their stance: bamboo fabric will never be as earth-safe as organic, but it can be the next in line alternative to silks or standard cotton. You decide. Let me know your thoughts.

http://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/09/bamboo-facts-be.html
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt172.shtm

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