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"No one could control the reaction and make it uniform until we figured it out," Leonard said. But even though ColorZen's process is environmentally friendly, it isn't exactly green. By coating fibers with an industrial chemical known as CHPTAC, the electrical charge that makes cotton hard to color is effectively masked. But CHPTAC itself releases toxic vapor when heated, and it's a potential carcinogen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Harari says all workers at ColorZen's North Carolina factory are fully protected against possible hazards, and the firm's contract manufacturer, Jabil, best-known for making iPhones, has a solid safety record. The International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology has certified that ColorZen meets "human- ecological requirements." "There is nothing harmful or toxic about our process," Harari said Because ColorZen-treated cotton can be dyed faster and uses less heat, water and dye, it produces much less toxic waste and costs just $267.26 to color 1,000 pounds, 80% less than the traditional method. Last month Copenhagen Fashion Summit named ColorZen the winner of its innovation award. Although the potential of CHPTAC to treat cotton has been known for years, the chemical didn't gain traction for two reasons. First, it stinks like rotten fish, so no one wanted to be near it until DowDuPont introduced an odorless version last year.
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