I am wearing my indigo-dyed T-shirt as I type this blog post. Lecture three began with a YouTube video exemplifying the process of extracting and creating Indigo dye. The process included the use of Indigofera plants, which supply a source of the blue dye compound. Such process included the addition of few ingredients, and resulted in dye that is capable, yet vulnerable to environmental conditions. In effort to shorten the extraction process of dye, and also elongate it's shelf life, many cloth dyes are synthetic and packed with chemicals that allow: preservation, stability, softness, vibrance, and similar qualities. However, many such added chemicals are adversary to health, and have been proven to be cancerous or carcinogenic in nature in other parts of the world, including Europe (GreenPeace.org).
Out of curiosity, I started to search dyes online and the ingredients they possess. There are some companies/brands that aim to provide organic, non-toxic dyes to their customers. In addition, an internet-search will result in an enclave of information regarding how to create dyes at home, using mainly kitchen ingredients such as flowers, fruits, and vegetables. In addition, the process as is explained on “diynatural.com” is simple and straightforward. Plant material and double it’s size of water are placed in a pot and left to simmer for about an hour, or until the pot’s components are dark in color. Next, the plant material can be strained and the remaining water placed back into the pot. The desired cloth can simmer in the water pot for about an hour, as the material absorbs the dyes. A popular source of natural dyes is carrots, which can be used to make clothes an orange color.
Humans have a very historical, cultural and intimate relationship with colors. We like to color our clothes, our hair, our bedrooms, our homes, our cars and so on. Specifically in regards to hair, there are over 5,000 different chemicals that have been used to create hair dyes. In addition, many of the chemicals used in hair dyes have been found to be carcinogenic in nature. A career as a hairdresser is not as safe as it used to be, for hair dyes and other hair products have been becoming more synthetic, complex and carcinogenic in nature as products continue to tweak their recipes and add ingredients. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, barbers and hairdressers have a higher rate of bladder cancer than the average population, according to some studies. If such facts are discussed, like that certain chemicals in fabric dye, laundry detergent, hair dye etc are known to be carcinogenic, then why are they still on the market? To answer such a question, it is important to remember the role companies have in the interest of their own benefit.
The “tobacco strategy” describes a dilemma that haunts many scientists throughout a wide variety of fields. The term was first coined to describe the tobacco wars of the 1980s, when an enclave of tobacco-funded professionals began to discredit any science that claimed cigarettes were addicting. Many scientists were concerned about the addictive and cancerous nature of cigarettes; however, the tobacco companies were able and willing to spend millions of dollars on their own scientists, lawyers, and public affairs officials whose job was to cast doubt on the ill-effects of cigarettes. Since science is usually perceived as an “all or nothing” matter, any studies that produce contradictory results will thus cast doubt on an entire hypothesis of interest. In other words, many companies invest millions or even billions of dollars in hiring officials that can produce data to contradict any claims that could affect their product sales negatively.
All in all, indigo dye is an important reminder of the ways in which humans can be self-sustainable and use healthier products. It is very easy to forget about the chemical entanglements that fog our everyday lives, but such forgetfulness is induced through the help of companies, expensive strategies, and the imperfect nature of the scientific process. It is important for consumers to be both aware and wary of the chemicals in their products – and the effects they may pose.
Liliana. “Salud! with Rain On The Land.” Toxic Chemicals in Brazilian Blowout and Other Salon Products Increase Risk of Cancer, Ecowatch, 1 Jan. 1970, rainontheland.blogspot.com/2013/09/toxic-chemicals-in-brazilian-blowout.html.
Maslowski, Debra. “Natural Dyes - All Natural Ways To Dye Fabric.” DIY Natural, 20 Jan. 2014, www.diynatural.com/natural-fabric-dyes/.
Ondra, Nancy. “Dye a Shirt With Veggies and Fruits.” HGTV, HGTV, 7 Aug. 2014, www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/dye-a-shirt-with-veggies-and-fruits.
Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Bloomsbury, 2012.
Ritdye. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Rit Dye, Nakoma Products LLC, www.ritdye.com/faq/.
US Department of Health and Human Services. “Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk.” National Cancer Institute, 2018, www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/hair-dyes-fact-sheet.