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The Bamboo Con

A lot of us have heard and seen the advertising for products that are made out of bamboo fabric or bamboo fiber for that matter. We have also been impressed by these commercials that make tall promises. But unfortunately they are all misleading and a scam that you need to steer clear of. You have to understand that all these advertisements are meant for selling products that don’t live up to the expectations.

Of course, bamboo, which is grass and not wood, is one of the most sustainable products on the planet. You see it in a solid form, and when it is brushed against another solid it will make a loud thud. But it is still sustainable. The same is true for fabric that has been derived from bamboo since it has sustainability characteristics (bio based and not petro-based). They are also responsible for today’s microfiber chemical free industry. And yet there is something amiss with the bamboo fiber advertisements.

US Fair Trade Commission (FTC) released a statement in 2010, which stated that the process used to create bamboo fiber uses extensive chemical processing. While turning raw bamboo into synthetic rayon, it releases substantial amounts of pollutants in the air. Jan 2013 saw big guns like Macy’s, Amazon, Sears (including Kmart), and Leon Max being fined a combined sum of $1.26 million for selling products labeled as bamboo when they were really synthetic rayon.

Last December, FTC again charged retailers for violating Textile Products Identification Act by labeling rayon products as eco-friendly bamboo. Bed Bath & Beyond, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom and Backcountry.com were fined a collective sum of $2 million. J.C. Penney and Backcountry.com settlements were regarding claims that their bamboo products had anti-microbial properties, which seems to be a common claim in Australia. According to FTC, though bamboo has anti-microbial properties, cellulose derived from bamboo hasn’t been proven to have them.

Charles Harwood, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has reportedly said, “Even if bamboo was used somewhere in the process, if a textile is made out of rayon then retailers need to say that clearly.” So right from bamboo pillows to socks, clothes and pajamas are nothing more than false marketing.

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