Polyesters such as PBT fabrics are some of the most widely used fabrics in the world because of their durability and beneficial features. However, polyesters are also harmful to the environment and human health, resulting in increased environmental pollution and the potential for medical problems.
Polybutylene Terephthalate Material
Polybutylene terephthalate material, or PBT, is a texturized yarn fiber material. Plastics can be made into a variety of materials today, and PBT is a kind of plastic fiber with a natural stretch and recovery properties, similar to that of spandex. PBT is a member of the polyester family of plastic fibers. PBT has a matte finish, differentiating it from other more shiny polyester materials. Although it is stretchy, it has less stretch than some other polyesters like Lycra, making PBT a stiffer alternative. PBT has a light and smooth feel, and the material slides smoothly through water, making it great for athletic wear.
Polybutylene Clothing Features
Among the fibers used to make clothing, PBT has many features that make it stand out as an attractive option for constructing garments. PBT is an extremely strong fiber that can both endure and recover from stretch. PBT is resistant to humidity and perspiration, allowing it to dry quickly if it gets wet while being worn. The color in PBT fibers can withstand ultraviolet light, so the color of the material will not easily fade after being worn outdoors. The fiber is tough and rigid in durability, yet also soft and flexible so that it can be molded easily. The fiber naturally resists a wide range of chemical, solvents, greases and oils, including the chlorine in chlorinated pool water. Finally, PBT is snag-resistant and comfortable. All of these properties combined make PBT an ideal fiber for constructing a wide range of athletic garments that can be worn for a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.
Synthetic fibers are used widely around the world: 65 percent of the fibers produced globally are synthetic, while only 35 percent are natural. The benefits of synthetic fibers, as well as the low cost of producing them, have made them a popular modern alternative to traditional materials. Unfortunately, there are a host of environmental dangers associated with using polyester fabrics. Polyester is made from petroleum, and the widespread use of polyester fabrics has only increased the demand for the fiber over the years. Manufacturing polyester requires large quantities of crude oil, and processing the oil releases harmful emissions into the environment. The waste water produced when manufacturing polyester is also a problem, as it contains harmful monomers and solvents, which are hazardous to the environment.
Manufacturing polyester harms not only the environment but human health as well. Some of the emissions that are released into the air during the manufacturing of polyester include volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases that can cause health problems such as respiratory diseases. Exposure to polyester also leases traces of antimony on the human skin. While scientists have not yet determined whether antimony can be absorbed into the body through the skin, antimony is a recognized carcinogen and can be toxic to the heart, lungs, liver and skin. Furthermore, long-term inhalation of antimony can cause chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
References and ResourcesAgon Swim: Fabric Information Guide
Performance Fibers: PBT
O Ecotextiles: Will the antimony in polyester fabric hurt me?
PMC: Waste Couture
Green Living: Is your T-shirt toxic?