Natural levels of copper in fungi used as protection in wearable textiles for the electrically sensitive population

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Silk shirt, made from ‘mushroom treated’ peace silk.

I have been invited to present my paper at the ‘Textile and Place‘ conference at The Manchester School of Art and The Whitworth.

Whilst investigating bio-mordants, used for natural dyeing, I discovered that some plants hyper-accumulate metals such as copper and aluminium. These plants are being investigated as an eco-friendly alternative, for their ability to act as a mordant that can replace the heavy metal mordants traditionally used by the textile industry. This led me to thinking about the possibility of using the copper in a different way within the textile substrate.

As part of my PhD at The Manchester Fashion Institute, I am looking at ways of incorporating neutralising elements into wearable textiles for the electrically sensitive population. Copper is used for shielding textiles that are currently being manufactured  for occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields and also for electrically hyper-sensitive (EHS) individuals. My theory led me to look at specific mushrooms –

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Shitake mushrooms

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Button mushrooms

Illustrated here are two mushrooms that contain significant levels of copper: Shitake and Button mushrooms.

Certain species of mushroom are hyper-accumulating of metals and are used as bio indicators of environmental toxins. Research has been conducted since the 1970s to screen mushroom fruiting bodies for toxic accumulations of heavy metals in soil; cadmium, mercury, lead and copper, also cesium (used at Chernobyl).

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Peace silk pre-mordanted with pomegranate skins

As part of a pilot study, I pre-mordanted peace silk with either alum or pomegranate skin (for the tannin) and finally no mordant. I then chose three mushrooms: Shitake, Button and Blewit to create three separate dye-baths. I divided my pre-mordanted samples into three and dyed them individually with each of the three mushroom dye-baths.

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Peace silk samples

This resulted in nine different samples to test.

The methodology I chose for testing seven participants was Kinesiology, or Manual Muscle Testing; first developed by Loett, 2012. Applied Kinesiology was developed in 1964 by Goodheart:

‘An examiner exerts pressure on the muscle of the subject and the subject is instructed to resist this force. The examiner applies an additional force and the ability of the subject to withstand this force determines whether the muscle is weak or strong’ (Cuthbert and Goodheart, 2007:3).

The results are shown here; seven participants were tested three times with each of the the nine samples of peace silk. The initial test was to determine the presence of EM fields, using an acoustimeter and to eliminate these. The strength of the arm muscle of each participant was tested beforehand and then a mobile phone was placed near them. A kinesiology test was performed to assess the strength at this stage (from 1 weak to 5 strong) and the samples of silk were introduced, one at a time.

Kinesiology test

  1. Blewit and alum
  2. Blewit and pomegranate
  3. Blewit and no mordant
  4. Shitake and alum
  5. Shitake and pomegranate
  6. Shitake and no mordant
  7. Button mushroom and alum
  8. Button mushroom and pomegranate
  9. Button mushroom and no mordant
  10. Peace silk with no treatment

The outcome of these tests shows there was not a significant difference between mordanting and no mordant. In the case of participant c, it was found that there was a sensitivity to the pomegranate and this over-rid the benefit of the treated silk. Overall there was a positive correlation between the presence of treated silk and the strength of the arm muscle, warranting further investigation.

Linda Row

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