5
   

Are the clothes on your back bad for your health?

 
 
Reply Sun 12 Dec, 2010 11:15 am
This is from today's edition of Care 2:

If you thought the last time you were in contact with formaldehyde was when you dissected a frog in your elementary school science class, think again.

A recent study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, shows that a broad range of clothing and household products are treated with a resin that releases formaldehyde. The purpose? Think wrinkle-free shirts and chinos, and yes, even wrinkle-free pillowcases, sheets and crib sheets.

Formaldehyde may be all around you

In fact, according to an article in The New York Times, formaldehyde can show up pretty much in any room in your house. Upholstery fabrics, draperies, children’s baseball caps, and personal care products including some shampoos, lotions and make up are all on the list of potential culprits.

But why? “Formaldehyde basically keeps the fabric’s fibers in place after a spin in the washing machine. Without it, the fibers become wrinkled or creases may fade,” The Times article explains.

“From a consumer perspective, you are very much in the dark in terms of what clothing is treated with,” David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, told The Times. “In many ways, you’re in the hands of the industry and those who are manufacturing our clothing. And we are trusting them to ensure they are using the safest materials and additives.”

No formaldehyde regulations for clothing

"The United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, most of which is now made overseas. Nor does any government agency require manufacturers to disclose the use of the chemical on labels," The Times reports. "So sensitive consumers may have a hard time avoiding it (though washing the clothes before wearing them helps).”

Although the study maintains that most consumers will never be affected by exposure to formaldehyde in fabrics, and claims that contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction that can causing itching, redness and blisters) is the worst case scenario, formaldehyde can pose serious health consequences for people who work with it in factories.

Formaldehyde levels on the decline in factories

There has been a decline formaldehyde levels in factories over the last several decades, says The Times “largely as a byproduct of regulations protecting factory workers at risk of inhaling the chemical and improved resins.” After all, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

So why would we want it touching our skin? In the very least, manufacturers should clearly label products containing formaldehyde. And "some critics are calling for more studies on a broader range of textiles and clothing chemicals, as well a closer look at the effects of cumulative exposure,” The Times says.

“Given all of the things we buy new that can release formaldehyde in our house, all of those things contribute,” Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumers Union told The Times, also noting that the Environmental Protection Agency is currently developing formaldehyde emissions regulations for pressed-wood products. “Over all, minimizing your exposure is a good idea.”

And as for wrinkles, do we really need chemicals to smooth them away anyway? What’s wrong with a good, old-fashioned iron?

 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Dec, 2010 12:14 pm

The clothes on my back
r as good as the clothes on my front.





David
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Dec, 2010 01:46 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
Ba-da-da-ching!
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  4  
Reply Sun 12 Dec, 2010 02:56 pm
@plainoldme,
Know why this is a problem? Most apparel is made overseas, without much enviromental and health regulation. In the US workplace, regulations vis a vis percent formaldehyde in the air preclude using extensive amounts of formaldehyde on fabric as a durable press agent in sufficient quantities to be detected in factory air that runs a continuous finishing operation.

There are several ways to reduce latent formaldehyde on fabrics, one is to use non-formaldehyde resins, albeit, more expensive and harsh of hard, the other is to incorporate formaldehyde scavangers. I used to make and sell both types, but with "glyoxal-based" resins with a formaldehyde content at 100ppm selling for $0.40-$0.45/pound in tankwagons, switching to a totally formaldehyde-free resin that costs $0.50-$0.60/pound in tankwagons is not business wise, especially with large factories buying a tankload per week.

btw, the standard procedure to determine "latent formaldehyde" viz, Sealed Jar Method (AATCC Test Method 112-1978) can be readily manipulated downward by titrating the test water at a temperature below 25 C. I have done this manipulation myself once one of my research chemists mentioned it in passing.

I read the article last night and have to say that I know more about the situation than all of the commentators rolled into one. Not a single remark was made about how alternatives are currently available, but will cost more and be less effective, or that the current problem is due to having the finishing done in countries that have less restrictive workplace regulations than the US.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Dec, 2010 03:50 pm
@kuvasz,
Is the problem with formaldehyde, the CO that results in breakdown? How about packaging the clothes with some adsorbant?
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Dec, 2010 05:47 pm
@kuvasz,
Thanks for your helpful reply. Very informative.
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  2  
Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2010 08:42 pm
@farmerman,
The problem is inherent in the chemical technology that is the basic crosslinking agent for cellulose. Dimethyloldihydroxyethyleneurea (DMDHEU) or its alkoxyl capped derivative release formaldehyde either in the drum as a result of the DMDHEU reaction never being capable of being driven to 100% product, or as a reactive finish on cloth, because the etherification with cellulosic hydroxyls, likewise can never be driven to 100% reaction, for thermodynamic reasons. Whatever formaldehyde you put on the fabric, regardless of what was done to it to make it into DMDHEU or cross-linked with cellulose, eventually will be released into the environment.

Solve that problem and pick up your Olney Medal.

Just think of it as a real world example of La Chatalier's Principle where you always remove the "D" component of a A+ B = C+D reaction.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2010 12:13 am
@kuvasz,
kuvasz wrote:

The problem is inherent in the chemical technology that is the basic crosslinking agent for cellulose. Dimethyloldihydroxyethyleneurea (DMDHEU) or its alkoxyl capped derivative release formaldehyde either in the drum as a result of the DMDHEU reaction never being capable of being driven to 100% product, or as a reactive finish on cloth, because the etherification with cellulosic hydroxyls, likewise can never be driven to 100% reaction, for thermodynamic reasons. Whatever formaldehyde you put on the fabric, regardless of what was done to it to make it into DMDHEU or cross-linked with cellulose, eventually will be released into the environment.

Solve that problem and pick up your Olney Medal.

Just think of it as a real world example of La Chatalier's Principle where you always remove the "D" component of a A+ B = C+D reaction.


Impressive kuvasz. Of course I wouldn't know if everything you've written is pure nonsense, but it sure looks good.

I'm betting you do know what you're writing about, but I'm still trying to figure out what the problem is for Americans or other people in developed countries who wear clothes manufacture in 3rd World nations. (I get the problem for 3rd World workers who are doused with the stuff daily)

If a dermatological reaction to formaldehyde used in clothing was widespread I have to believe I would know at least one sufferer (I do not), and/or there would be far more attention paid to the subject. There isn't even a hugely exaggerated number of sufferers as is the case with peanut allergies.

This feels like yet another story about the evils of commercialized chemistry and the senseless desire of western consumers for petty convenience.

I suppose we should all go back to wearing undyed sackcloth.

(Heaven forbid we go back even further to wearing skins and fur)

kuvasz
 
  2  
Reply Wed 15 Dec, 2010 05:26 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn, I concure since my hypothesis on the cause of the skin rashes is not due to formaldehyde, but the cationic softeners used in the durable press pad bath that saturates the chemicals onto the fabric. This is based entirely on personal experience when I ran a research lab.

One of my chemists was experimenting on comparing various cationic softeners to improve the hand of the fabric, because the process of the cross-linking harshens the feel of the treated fabric. She broke out in a rash on her hands, but only after working with one particular softener, and had been running similar experiments weeks before where formaldehyde, sans softener, was present in the system she worked on.

We never thought that formaldehyde was the issue but a reaction she had from contact with a strongly cationic softener. And that is the catch, the lower the molecular weight of a cationic softener with the same point charge increases softness, yet the more closely it resembles... get this..... an antimicrobial agent.
0 Replies
 
Ceili
 
  2  
Reply Wed 4 Jan, 2012 12:48 am
I'm allergic to formaldehyde. OK, not really an allergy, I reacted badly to exposure. I found out the hard way and it took me almost 4 years to get it, or at least enough of it out of my system, that I no longer have the eczema and other side effects. I did not get it from clothing however, but from fake nails. Gels and Acrylic nails are full of the stuff, and because they are becoming so popular, they are the fastest growing allergy in the US, if not the developed world.
After you develop an allergy it takes forever to clean it out of your system. It's much the same as when you develop sensitivities to fiberglass or resin. Once it develops, you may never be able to go near or use the stuff again.
Shortly after the side effects started, my eyes would cover with a film, that was beyond painful to remove. I couldn't wear nail polish, some clothing, some bras and use other stuff without skin or eye problems. The only way to get over the effect are to completely remove these products from your life and or surroundings, not fun or easy.
Scoff all you want, but the human body does not have an infinite tolerance to these chemicals. Once toxic levels are set, it's very difficult to return to stage one. I really wish the regulating bodies would take this seriously and force manufacturers to use the alternates. As of yet, the public does NOT have to be informed when these chemicals are used as stiffeners and so on.
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Jan, 2012 12:13 am

I 've heard that during the Prohibition of the 1920s,
the illicit booze sold in speak easys was not entirely free of formaldehyde.

0 Replies
 
nurein
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2014 01:33 am
It is slightly was in the olden days.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2014 05:34 am
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:
Are the clothes on your back bad for your health?

This is from today's edition of Care 2:

If you thought the last time you were in contact with formaldehyde was when you dissected a frog in your elementary school science class, think again.

A recent study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, shows that a broad range of clothing and household products are treated with a resin that releases formaldehyde. The purpose? Think wrinkle-free shirts and chinos, and yes, even wrinkle-free pillowcases, sheets and crib sheets.

Formaldehyde may be all around you
not if u live in a nudist colony
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2014 07:03 pm
@Ceili,
I never do fake nails. I gave up nail enamel long ago because most American polishes have a nasty carcinogenic chemical in them.
0 Replies
 
 

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