Not All Anti-Odor Apparel Are Created Equal. Some Puts Your Health At Risk. Part One.

Anti-odor properties have been used for years in the apparel industry. Manufacturers apply several different types of textile treatments to inhibit odor and bacterial growth. The major ones are silver-based compounds and the synthetic chemicals like triclosan or triclocarban (all toxic to bacteria). Silver-based technologies made up 9 percent of the anti-odor textile market in 2004, but have since grown to occupy more than a quarter of that category. It is a concern for doctors and environmentalists.

Not until recently, silver used in textile have never been tested for safety when used in consumer goods. Pew Charitable Trust's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies found that, even though silver is a natural material, and has been used for medicinal purposes in non-nano form for centuries, silver nanoparticles have been shown to damage lung, liver and kidney function in animals.

In 2014, research by MIT shows that silver nanoparticles, not only can they kill harmful bacteria, can also damage cell DNA. We don’t know exactly how much exposure to silver is harmful to human health, or even how much silver from a fabric treatment on a shirt or shorts makes its way to our skin.

These odor-fighting properties aren’t native to the shirt, they wear off within a few wears and washes, meaning your pricey workout shirt becomes less effective with time. Several environmental groups have called out on the effect of antibacterial clothing on water supplies. Researchers with the Swedish Chemical Agency found that 50 percent of silver, as well as antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan and trichlorocarban that are commonly used in active wear, rinse out after 10 rounds of washing, ultimately entering the water source. For marine life, silver particles are toxic. As the property becomes more widely used, it could also begin to affect the water supply and food chain.

The easiest way to limit your exposure to silver is to stop wearing clothes without a clear explanation of where their anti odor and anti bacterial properties comes from. If you already have silver embedded clothing, the Swiss researchers suggest that showering immediately after your workout will wash silver nanoparticles from your skin and reduce exposure.