Say No To “Easy Care”


“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein


Say No to “Easy Care” for Good

“Easy” is not always good. Sometimes easy can mean saving an effort which in turn can cause harm. That is so true in case of “Easy Care” clothing.

Most “Wrinkle Free” and “Easy Care” clothing uses formaldehyde finish. Formaldehyde was discovered by a German scientist who extracted methanol from the charcoaling of wood. A highly toxic chemical, it’s effective as a permanent press wrinkle-proofing agent because it’s a simple molecule that can connect individual fibers and enable them to hold their shape after repeated cleanings. Other uses of formaldehyde includes: antishrink finish to clothing, waterproof finishes, perspiration-proof finish, moth proof and mildew-resistant finishes, stiffening for lightweight nylon knits, chlorine-resistant finishes.

Anna Maria Clement, PhD, NMD, LN and Brian R. Clement, PhD, NMD, LN has done a lot or research in this matter and in their book “Killer Clothes”, they reveal that laboratory testing of animals has documented how formaldehyde acts as a carcinogen capable of causing cancer in humans. Various countries have limited use of formaldehyde in clothing as in China, the formaldehyde limit is 20 ppm (parts per million) in textiles for infants and 75 ppm for textiles that will be in direct skin contact with children and adults. In Japan, formaldehyde must not be detectable in textiles for infants and 75 ppm for children and adults. In Netherlands, clothing must not contain more than 120 ppm after washing. In United States, manufacturers are subject only to “voluntary” standards; no laws or regulations mandate formaldehyde levels.

In an article published in NY Times on Dec 10, 2010 “When Wrinkle-Free Clothing Also Means Formaldehyde Fumes” reveals the antiwrinkle finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical that is usually associated with embalming fluids or dissected frogs in biology class. It further states that formaldehyde is commonly found in a broad range of consumer products and can show up in practically every room of the house. The sheets and pillow cases on the bed, the drapes hanging in the living room, the upholstery on the couch. In the bathroom, it can be found in personal care products like shampoos, lotions and eye shadow. It may even be in the baseball cap hanging by the back door.

The biggest potential issue for those wearing wrinkle-resistant clothing can be a skin condition called contact dermatitis. It affects a small group of people and can cause itchy skin, rashes and blisters, according to a recent government study on formaldehyde in textiles. Still, some critics said more studies on a wider array of textiles and clothing chemicals were needed, including a closer look at the effects of cumulative exposure. At the very least, they said, better labeling would help.

“The textile industry for years has been telling dermatologists that they aren’t using the formaldehyde resins anymore, or the ones they use have low levels,” said Dr. Joseph F. Fowler, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Louisville. “Yet despite that, we have been continually seeing patients who are allergic to formaldehyde and have a pattern of dermatitis on their body that tells us this is certainly related to clothing.

Below is a data copy of report produced by GOA (United States Government Accountability Office) to Congressional Committee. GOA is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the “congressional watchdog,” GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

Table 1: Ten Items Sold in the United States That Exceeded the Most Stringent Regulatory Standards for Formaldehyde Identified by the American Apparel and Footwear Association

Item type Fiber content identified on label Fabric performance characteristic identified on label or packaging Country identified on label Target customer Formaldehyde level in parts per milliona
Dress shirt 100% cotton Wrinkle free China Men 206.1
Hat 100% cotton exclusive of decoration None identified China Boys 3 years of age and older 192.6
Bed linens (pillow cases) 60% cotton, 40% polyester Soft finish, easy care Bahrain Adults or children 3 years of age and older 189.6
Khakis 100% cotton No iron, permanent crease India Men 169.6
Dress shirt 60% cotton, 40% polyester None identified China Boys 3 years of age and older 95.1
Bed linens (pillow cases) 100% cotton Wrinkle free, easy care, no ironing needed, eco-friendly USA; fabric imported from Pakistan Adults or children 3 years of age and older 93.8
Dress shirt 100% cotton Noniron Indonesia Men 92.6
Bed linens (pillow cases) 100% cotton Wrinkle free performance Pakistan Adults or children 3 years of age and older 89.3
Bed linens (crib sheet) 100% cotton Preshrunk Thailand Infants/toddlersb 85.4
U.S. military combat uniform pants 50% cotton, 50% nylon None identified USA Women 75.4

*Source: GAO analysis of information provided on items’ labels or packaging and test data from an accredited commercial laboratory.

*These formaldehyde levels were determined using the Japanese test.

*Infants/toddlers refers to children younger than 3 years of age.

The report further read: Potential health risks from exposure to formaldehyde vary depending on the means of exposure (inhalation, dermal, ingestion, or eye contact), the concentration of formaldehyde, and the duration of exposure, among other factors. Inhaled formaldehyde may cause such effects as (1) discomfort or nausea stemming from the chemical’s pungent odor; (2) irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; (3) exacerbation of asthma; and (4) changes at the cellular level that may lead to the development of tumors. In fact, several comprehensive government reviews of the health risks of exposure to formaldehyde have found that chronic inhalation exposure to formaldehyde may cause cancer.

Read full report here.

“Wrinkle Free” or “Not Wrinkle Free” is a “Pressing” issue. I like wrinkles on my clothes because that means no formaldehyde. “Pressing” my clothes is no pressing issue for me. I will love to iron my shirt to stay away from deadly Formaldehyde. If a known toxic chemical is in my shirt, I will prefer not to use it, even if it is under “allowable” limits.

Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/your-money/11wrinkle.html?_r=0

“Killer Clothes” written by Anna Maria Clement, PhD, NMD, LN and Brian R. Clement, PhD, NMD, LN

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10875.pdf

Image Courtesy: http://www.recapo.com

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