Odor-free. Sweat-free. Bacteria-free. Motion-detecting. Heartbeat-monitoring. Semi-conducting. Bacteria-detecting. Color-changing. Medicine-releasing.
Today's "smart clothes" go way beyond sweat-wicking polyester or breathable cotton underclothes. These specialty fibers are infused with all sorts of chemicals and technology, allowing them to react to changes in the body, monitor health and even power i-Pods. But are these performance fibers a good thing? Consider these products:
- A men's suit that beads up sweat and prevents odor (chemicals are infused into the fabric during production)
- Anti-bacterial shoes that prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria (using triclosan (aka Microban) which is toxic to both humans and aquatic life)
- Motion-detecting pants that detect activity and speed (wires and sensors are embedded into the fabric sending out wireless signals to your computer)
- Bio-sensing underwear that monitors heartbeat and blood pressure (carbon electrode arrays are screen-printed onto the waistband)
- Semiconducting shirts that can power your i-Pod or cell phone (microscopic nanoparticles used to conduct electicity through cotton)
What worries me is that these products and technologies have not been thoroughly tested for safety on humans. Nor do we know the impact on the environment. Will the great new technology of today be the BPA of tomorrow?
How do you feel about smart clothes? Creative use of technology or potentially dangerous human science experiment? Low-impact or environmentally risky?
For more info on smart clothing, see the resources I used for this post:
You Sweat and the Shirt Changes, Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2010
10 Smart Clothes You'll Be Wearing Soon, ReadWriteWeb, April 14, 2010
Fibers You Can't See, Delta Farm Press, April 13, 2010