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Conventional Wool Production.

Here’s the story. Sheep live outside and require large areas for grazing. When sheep are confined and their pastures are overgrazed, they become more susceptible to mange and pests such as mites, lice, and flies. To control these pests and parasites, more than 14,000 pounds of pesticides were applied to sheep in the U.S. The most common conventional pesticide treatments contain potentially dangerous organo-phosphorus compounds. The top three pesticides used on sheep are moderately toxic to humans but they are moderately to highly toxic to fish and amphibians, such as frogs, and they are suspected endocrine disruptors. Some of these pesticides are also highly water soluble which means that they can easily be carried from the sheep dip application site by rain or irrigation water runoff into our streams and rivers and contaminate our groundwater.

According to the Organic Trade Association:
“Pesticides used in sheep dips have consistently been linked with damage to the nervous system in workers that have been exposed to them in the United Kingdom. Even low-dose exposure over the long term has been conclusively linked with reduced nerve fiber function, anxiety, and depression. Long-term exposure to sheep dip has also been linked to reduced bone formation. In addition, residues of diflubenzuron, an insecticide used in sheep dips, persist in the environment for more than a year.”
This is just to control external pests. Sheep are also susceptible to internal parasitic worms. The conventional doctrine for control is to routinely dose the animals with drugs.

And then there is the issue of antibiotic feed additives, such as oxytetracycline and chlortetracycline, sometimes given to sheep to promote slightly faster growth and to compensate for overcrowded and unhealthy conditions in concentrated sheep pens. Again according to the Organic Trade Association, “Mounting evidence suggests that widespread use of agricultural antibiotics is contaminating surface waters and groundwater, including drinking water, in many rural areas as a result of their presence in animals waste. This non-human use of antibiotics is compromising medicine’s effectiveness in people as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics over time.”

So much for the purity of conventionally grown wool. Small wonder that Little Bo Beep lost her sheep. She probably also lost her lunch after discovering what Farmer Brown was doing to her sheep.

What is Conventional Wool Fabric Manufacturing?
As with cotton, the health dangers to the environment and the consumer are only compounded with the conventional production of fabrics and garments from conventionally grown wool. The conventional wool garment manufacturing process typically employs harsh scouring agents and bleaches to clean and whiten the wool, formaldehyde, polyester, foams, dioxins, conditioners, moth-proofing, harsh chemical dyes,  and other, often toxic, additives to finish the fabric and garments. Chemical dyes frequently include toxic heavy metals such as chrome, copper and zinc, and sometimes contain known or suspected carcinogens.

For the chemically sensitive and chemically concerned consumer?

Beware of garments manufactured with new fabric technologies that boast of creating “smart wools” that will not shrink and have high performance capabilities. Many of these “unique and innovative properties” are achieved through a combination of chemicals and manufacturing processes which change the structure of the wool fibers and utilize the latest fabric technologies for processes such as sliver backwashing and continuous chlorine oxidization shrink resist systems. The chemically sensitive should be cautious with new wool fiber technologies such as Sportwool™, Woolscience™, Sensory Perception Technology™ and Arcana™.

Prevention is better than cure?
As much as possible and appropriate, buy organically grown wool and organically processed wool garments and products. Organic wool is from sheep that have been raised without synthetic or harmful chemicals under healthy, natural, and responsible animal husbandry methods which reduce or eliminate the need for most agricultural chemicals and promote healthy soils, air, and waterways. The sheep are grazed on pesticide-free land that is not over-grazed and are never sprayed or dipped as is commonly practiced in conventional sheep farming.  Responsible organic animal husbandry methods help raise sheep that have healthy immune systems that are most resistant to external and internal parasites.

Organic wool yarn is not chemically treated during the entire production process,?

From the farm to the finished garment or product. The raw wool is scoured clean in an approved biodegradable cleansing agent before being carded and spun at an organic mill.  This organic cotton sweater is the Organic Wool Crew Neck Sweater from Patagonia.

Wool is a natural fiber and a renewable resource that is non-allergenic.?

Organic wool can be used extensively by those who normally suffer from chemical sensitivity when in contact with conventional grow wool. Sometimes those who ‘react’ to wool are actually displaying a reaction to the harsh scouring agents, dyes and chemicals used in conventional wool production and not the wool itself.