I just received this article from a friend in regards to a lawsuit filed against Victoria Secret for putting formaldehyde in their bras and women having sever reactions. I thought we could all use a bit of clothing and dye education/reminder to buy things that are gentle on the planet and gentle on ourselves.
Why Do They Put Formaldehyde in clothes?
Formaldehyde, most commonly known as embalming fluid, serves a number of purposes in manufactured products. It is actually frequently used in fabrics to give them a variety of "easy care properties" such as:
- Permanent press
- Anti-cling, anti-static, anti-wrinkle, and anti-shrink
- Waterproofing and stain resistance
- Perspiration proof
- Moth proof
- Mildew resistance
According to the American Contact Dermatitis Society, rayon, blended cotton, corduroy, wrinkle-resistant 100 percent cotton, and any synthetic blended polymer are likely to have been treated with formaldehyde resins.
But as some are finding out the hard way, easy care comes at a price.
Health Hazards of Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde, for all its benefits, is also listed as a "probable carcinogen." And, unfortunately, the United States is more lax about its regulation than most other countries. For example, "low level" of acceptable formaldehyde in Japan is 75 ppm, whereas the U.S. "low level" of acceptable formaldehyde is near 300 ppm.
There's evidence that some people can develop sensitivity to formaldehyde from repeated exposure, which can eventually become a serious health concern.
You can be exposed to the chemical both via off-gassing and direct contact with your skin.
Formaldehyde has also been shown to cause cancer in animals, and may cause cancer in humans. Other common adverse health effects include:
- skin rash (contact dermatitis)
- severe allergic reactions
- eye, nose, and throat irritation
- wheezing and coughing
Be aware that it takes several washings, with dryings and airings in between, to significantly reduce the amount of formaldehyde found in clothing and other household fabrics like window drapes.
So if you suffer from chemical sensitivities, it is important to pay careful attention to what you buy, especially if it's going next to your skin. Contact dermatitis from clothing can be recognized by a chronic and recurring rash that appears on parts of your body where clothing fits tight.
Because heat and humidity increase the emissions from formaldehyde resins, the American Contact Dermatitis Society warns that areas around waistbands, collars, underarms, the upper back, inner thighs, and back of knees are more prone to chemical-induced skin rashes.