Most bed sheets are filled with harmful dyes. This doesn’t have to be the case

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To prove its point, last year Axiom released a skin-care product called Wastecare, made from Axiom’s own industrial wastewater, which won awards for creative advertising from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the Webby Awards and Fast Company. It is working with a Japanese pharmaceutical company to register its wastewater as an active cosmetic ingredient with the International Nomenclature System for Cosmetic Ingredients so other companies can use it in their products.

The first orders of Axiom’s naturally dyed, medicated T-shirts — the start of its healthwear line — should ship in July.

intention to cure completely

At first I didn’t know what to think of May. I’ve met many overambitious social entrepreneurs who say they’re going to change the world one purse or one pair of shoes at a time. May Is Ambitious, but strategic. He founded Aizome to prove one thing: that modern, colorful, naturally dyed clothes are possible, that they are better for us, and that people will pay more for clothes that are free of harmful chemicals.

When I first spoke to May in December 2023, he was in northern Thailand for a two-month working retreat. He brought with him Aizome’s six-person team, as well as his wife (Aizome’s co-founder), their newborn baby, and environmental lawyer, Karen Wade Cavanagh.

Cavanagh has spent her career working on the legal side of cleaning up buildings after natural disasters like the anthrax attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Her job was to protect people from dangerous contaminants and harsh chemicals in public spaces and commercial buildings. “We know these chemicals are not safe,” she says, referring to things like formaldehyde. “We don’t expect to live with them, breathe with them, sleep with them.”

What she’s saying is that unless you’re really conscientious, your home is probably full of poorly regulated consumer products that release harmful volatile organic chemicals, exude endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates, and exude plastic microfibers laced with dangerous chemicals.

Cavanagh was drawn to Aziom because the regulations set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on health products were so difficult to understand. And she wishes something like Aziom had been available when her children were young. Cavanagh’s now grown children suffer from allergies, ulcerative colitis and asthma, severe enough to require hospitalization. No one can stand the feeling of clothing tags touching their skin. “I know my son was always sensitive to his clothes. I didn’t understand it, but I knew it was true,” she says. “And yet, people with these problems go to the doctor, and they’re either told it’s all in their mind, which isn’t helpful, or they’re given medication and told there’s nothing they can do.”

While most supplements carry a disclaimer stating that they are not intended to treat, mitigate, or cure any disease, Axiom Sheets are now registered with the FDA as Class 1 medical devices intended to mitigate and prevent skin problems.

This strategy appears to be working. Axiom is a big player in the eczema community – until last year it was recommended by the National Eczema Society, but ironically, NES scrapped the entire textile category, saying textile products are too complex to evaluate.

May has been single-minded about proving his theories. He was one of the authors of a 2022 study in the Journal of Applied Biomedicine, along with two Egyptian researchers and a researcher from the University of Cambridge, that showed indigo’s wound-healing properties. Axiom is opening a research division to use government grants to test the medicinal properties and microbiome effects of dyed fabrics. Research showing indigo’s antibacterial properties has been going on for quite some time (Axiom claims these properties help neutralize body odor).

While you may think this is all nonsense, if you have the money to spend, there is no harm in wearing classy pastel cotton sheets for a good night’s sleep, as you don’t have to worry about what synthetic chemicals may be lurking in them. A calm mind leads to better sleep.

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