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Formaldehyde in Your Clothes - Are You the Next Fashion Victim?


When you hear the word ‘formaldehyde’ what instantly springs to mind? For me it’s embalming and poison. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that a lot of clothes, especially those made in China, are treated with formaldehyde. Did I just hear you all scream, “What?” Yes, the clothes you wear, and those you put on your children, probably contain formaldehyde. So why?

Formaldehyde is used to give a permanent press effect to clothing, to increase stain resistance and for securing colour. It is also used to keep blankets and garments looking snazzy while in transit, and to retard the growth of mildew.

Since formaldehyde is known to cause cancer in animals and people, and rashes, allergies and respiratory difficulties/asthma in humans, it would be sensible to make sure you wash and air any new clothes before you wear them.

In New Zealand in 2007, tests were done on cotton and wool clothes that had been imported from China. The scientists discovered that manufacturers had ignored the European Union’s assessed safe limit of 30 ppm of formaldehyde. They found levels from 230 ppm to 18,000 ppm. Oh my God! What the hell is going on? Is it too much to ask that our governments monitor these things and help keep us safe-apparently it is.
In Australia The ACCC (a regulatory body) have this on their website:

“ACCC testing conducted in 2007 found no detections of formaldehyde in a range of clothing available in Australia.
The ACCC has provided these (sic) interim, non-regulatory reference limits for levels of formaldehyde in various products:

  • infants' clothing—30 ppm
  • clothing specifically marketed as suitable for people with sensitive skin—30 ppm
  • garments which contact the skin—100 ppmother garments or fabrics—300 ppm.”

I have a question- Why are our allowable levels so much higher than the European Union’s? Do we have some kind of natural resistance compared to the Europeans? I think not. So next time you wonder why so many of us have allergies or asthma, don’t waste too long thinking about it, we have our answer.

Please make sure you wash all your new clothes before wearing them and don’t become a fashion victim.


More info:

What do you think?