We may soon be able to clean the air via the clothes we wear.
An additive created as the result of a partnership between the University of Sheffield and the London College of Fashion can be washed into clothes – a process that only needs to be done once
Called CatClo (short for catalytic clothing), it consists of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide; a fairly common sort of substance already widely used in products such as toothpaste and sunscreen.
When these particles come into contact with nitrogen oxides in the air, they react with these pollutants and oxidise them in the fabric.
Nitrogen oxides play a role in the formation of acid rain and hamper the growth of plants. These substances can also react with other pollutants to form toxic chemicals.
Nitrous oxide is also potent greenhouse gas, with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 296 over *100* years. Human sources of the substance include the internal combustion engine (cars etc.) and coal fired electricity production.
It seems the CatClo additive works best on denim – and with more denim jeans out there than humans; Catclo’s creators have high expectations. According to a University of Sheffield news item:
“One person wearing clothes treated with CatClo would be able to remove around 5g of nitrogen oxides from the air in the course of an average day – roughly equivalent to the amount produced each day by the average family car.”
It alls sounds very interesting; but a point of concern – and I don’t want to rain on the boffins’ parade as the concept is wonderful – relates to the nanoparticle aspect.
These particles are so small they can be absorbed by the skin. Also, titanium dioxide dust when inhaled has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as being possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Whether the benefits outweigh the risks remains to be seen. Earth Working Group (EWG) rates the substance as a low to medium hazard, depending on the application.
Would I wear clothes washed in the stuff? If it were only a matter of my own health, then I would probably take the risk – just to help undo some of the damage I’ve done over my 40+ years on the planet. If I were in my 20’s, perhaps not.