Is Anti-Odour Outdoor Gear Bad for you?

New research suggests silver-laced anti-mircobial kit might have detrimental side-effects.

Runners sweating it out on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Fell Race.
Photo: Peter Hartley

Everybody sweats- even ladies- and it’s a good thing. It’s the body’s way of natural cooling. The only issue comes about with bacteria that is released alongside the sweat from your pores. It is this bacteria that causes the stink. For years outdoor and sportswear manufacturers agonised over how to create stink-free clothing. Recently the addition of silver into fabrics was deemed as the magical technological solution to our stinky clothes. In fact, silver nano-particles are added into a vast array of everyday products these days precisely for their anti-bacterial properties- everything from toothpaste to toys.

A recent study by researchers at Harvard and MIT has discovered that exposure to the same sorts of nano-particles that appear in lots of everyday items can cause damage to DNA. The nano-particles are small enough to get into the body and act in a similar way to viruses, penetrating through lung and skin barriers and entering the lymphatic system. Once into the body it is believed that DNA damage can be caused, which if not repaired properly by the body could lead to cancer.

The problem is at present, researchers do not know how much of a risk exposure is from clothing and what constitutes a dangerous level of exposure. However, according to a recent Swiss study, unlike make-up or toothpaste, clothing is less likely to be as much of a threat as the silver particles are only partially in contact with the skin and never enter into the body. Sweat leaching into fabrics may however, force some nano-particles to break free from the clothing, become mobile and therefore more of a risk.

The Swiss study did strike upon a rather obvious way to counter the risks of silver nano-particle exposure though- washing. The study recommends that wearers of silver-laced gear shower soon after finishing the exercise. Once again, common sense rules, it would seem.

So, in short there is a risk, but no one is exactly sure how much as of yet. If you’re concerned, the best bet is to put up with the stink and wash when you get home. Oh, if you’re really concerned return to nature and buy some Merino wool clothing with it’s all-natural anti-bacterial, anti-stink properties.

Via Outside


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