Does Non-Organic Cotton Contain Pesticide Residues?

Does Non-Organic Cotton Contain Pesticide Residues?


Many parents have questions about cotton. Is regular cotton okay, or should you use organic? The major difference comes down to, unfortunately, pesticides. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides; regular cotton is grown with them. 

This distinction is both prescient and important. If you aren’t buying organic cotton, are residues from those pesticides still in the cotton clothing, sheets and blankets you’re using for your baby?

This is an important question if you’re concerned about your child’s health. Pesticides have been linked to several diseases and conditions, including asthma, autism, learning disabilities, birth defects, reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and several types of cancer—to name a few!

The President’s Cancer Panel

In fact, the President’s Cancer Panel, which reports to the President of the United States on barriers to progress in reducing the burden of cancer, recommends that we eat organic food in order to avoid pesticide poisoning. Here’s a quote from a recent President’s Cancer Panel Report:

“Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers…Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications."

But food is not our only exposure to pesticides. As with other chemicals, residue can also become airborne in the products that we buy to decorate, furnish, and add comfort to our homes. When the chemicals that make up these products off gas, they contaminate the air that our families breathe.

The Problem with Pesticides

Recent studies have confirmed that nearly 48 million pounds of pesticides were used on cotton in one year making the crop the third most pesticide sprayed crop behind corn and soybeans.

The good news is that by the time those cotton crops become fabric, the pesticides are gone. However, according to Debra Lynn Dadd, Queen of Green and author of Home Safe Home, there are other problems with cotton, including the cotton batting sometimes used in crib mattresses:

“Cotton batting does contain pesticide residues, if it is not organic, as it is not as processed as cotton fabric. So it is imperative to buy organic cotton batting, as in a mattress or pillow.”

Finishes and dyes on some cotton fabrics can also be a problem:

“The problem with cotton fabric is the finishes, such as a permanent press finish, which releases formaldehyde. Most fabrics of any kind have a "sizing" applied, which washes out in the first wash. Five washes is plenty to remove sizing, but no amount of washing removes permanent press. Dyes are also not a concern if they are "colorfast," that is, they don't bleed when you wash them."

There are also environmental reasons to use organic cotton, as it has less of a negative impact on the earth. Conventionally-grown cotton typically uses a huge amount of the most toxic chemicals to grow and farm its product, which seeps into our air, water, soil, and indirectly into our bodies.

At Naturepedic, we use only organic cotton in our crib mattresses. This way, parents can know your baby is safe from pesticide residues and the residues of other toxic chemicals that may be used on the crops or in processing.

As for your baby’s jammies, sheets, blankets and other goodies, regular cotton is probably fine. But do find out about the dyes used and treatments or finishes such as permanent press. If it looks like the chemicals used there might not be safe, go with organic.

To be sure your cotton clothes and mattresses were not made with toxic and synthetic inputs, look for the official Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) logo, which you'll find on our Naturepedic mattresses. Learn more about our certifications.