In case you were thinking about it, you probably won't want to donate your iron anytime soon. Although it's not clear from the label, clothes and textiles that advertise themselves as being "wrinkle-free" contain a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical causing major issues for indoor air quality and public health.
As we wrote about in this post, formaldehyde is found in products all over the home, including compressed wood furniture and cabinetry, curtains, sheets, upholstery, carpets, air fresheners, and yes, wrinkle-free clothing and textiles…
In this article from 2010, The New York Times notes that the biggest potential issue for people who choose to wear wrinkle-resistant clothing can be a skin condition called contact dermatitis, which can cause itchy skin, rashes and blisters. Formaldehyde critics say more studies on a wider array of textiles and clothing chemicals are needed to determine the effects of using formaldehyde in household and personal care products, including a closer look at the effects of cumulative exposure. At the very least, they said, these products should have better, clearer labeling, even something as simple as "Wash before wearing or using."
Here's an excerpt from the NYT article:
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. So sensitive consumers may have a hard time avoiding it (though washing the clothes before wearing them helps).
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recently examined the levels and potential health risks of formaldehyde as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Most of the 180 items tested, largely clothes and bed linens, had low or undetectable levels of formaldehyde that met the voluntary industry guidelines based on standards in Japan, which are among the most stringent. Still, about 5.5 percent of the items -- primarily wrinkle-free shirts and pants, easy-care pillow cases, crib sheets and a boy's baseball hat -- exceeded the most stringent standards of 75 parts per million, for products that touch the skin. (Levels must be undetectable, or less than 20 parts per million for children under 3 years, and can be as high as 300 parts per million for products like outerwear that do not come into direct contact with the skin.)
• Read More: When Wrinkle-Free Clothing Also Means Formaldehyde Fumes at The New York Times
(Image: Retrospace. Originally published 2010-12-13)