By SafBaby Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson
On December 30, 2008 we posted our first version of this article regarding which clothing companies do and do NOT treat their clothing with formaldehyde. We have received quite a few emails from parents on this one and even some who have shared helpful information with us! Additionally, some companies who did not respond in the past to us have finally answered our questions, so we are re-posting this today with many updates and clarifications.
Companies who do not answer with a clear “NO, we don’t use formaldehyde” and say “we are compliant with all CPSC regulations” (for your information there are NONE for formaldehyde!) most likely use formaldehyde in their children’s clothing.
Please let us know of any other children’s clothing company who possibly uses chemicals in their clothing!
Formaldehyde is a popular “cheap” chemical used in clothing, shoes, furniture, fertilizer paper, toys, cosmetics and food. Our recent article on formaldehyde in children’s clothing gave details on how long-term exposure and high concentrations of formaldehyde can lead to cancer. And to think we cloak our children in this daily!
In our article, we reported about our concern with the USA not having any safety standards in place when it comes to formaldehyde limits in textiles. Unlike other countries like Japan, Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Netherlands and others who are already ahead of us on this issue. So in order to help parents make wise shopping choices, we have contacted many of the most popular clothing stores and manufacturers to find out if they use formaldehyde in their clothing. Some of them responded within 24 hours and gave us a clear answer. But, others did not! What really surprised us is that most companies could NOT give us an answer, and some did not even get back to us. Only 3 companies of about 20 sent us a clear response very promptly.
Formaldehyde-Free Clothing Companies
“Hanna does not add any type of chemicals to our clothing, so we do not have any type of wrinkle-free chemical. However, the nature of most of the fabrics we choose are very care free!” - Char M Hanna Andersson Customer Service
SafBaby’s comment: Love the quick response and a big fan of their great quality clothing. 60% of their clothes are Oeko Tex Certified which means that garments are tested for over 100 harmful substances. Another plus, most of their clothes are made of organic cotton! Way to go Hanna Andersson!
Carter’s & OshKosh B’gosh
“We do not use any chemicals at all in our garments.” - Mary, Consumer Affairs, Carter’s / Oshkosh B’Gosh
SafBaby’s comment: Short and clear! However, we contacted them again regarding their tagless labels and what chemicals are used. Their new labels are said to pose no health risks, but Carter’s 2007 fall line did. See our article on this topic.
Another response from Carter’s to one of our reader’s question “if Carter’s does not put any chemicals on their clothes, why do they reek of that “new clothes smell?”
“Thank you for your recent email. All fabrics (including organic) have to be treated with some type of softener to be able to sew. These softeners can leave an odor. We do not wash most of the styles prior to selling and we label our garments “wash before wear. I hope this answers your readers questions.”
Carter’s / Oshkosh B’Gosh
Use Formaldehyde or Insufficient Response
“GapShield uses nanotechnology to help resist spills and repel and release stains. For more information visit www.nano-tex.com.
This is a stain resistant finish that belongs to the general family of fluoropolymers. It also must meet our standards for formaldehyde. While formaldehyde is not regulated in apparel in the US, Gap Inc. follows global standards limiting formaldehyde to extremely small amounts. You can feel confident in advising customers that we have low-to-no formaldehyde in all of our clothing.
Safety is one of our top priorities at Gap Inc. We do all we can to make sure our products are safe to all consumers and have a history of setting standards that meet or exceed the legal requirements for our merchandise. We have pre-approved, independent laboratories where we have our vendors send products for testing before we sell them in our stores and online. We also have a Product Safety team who manage our testing programs and make sure we are up to date on international safety and regulatory standards.
Gap Inc. restricts several chemicals, including formaldehyde, lead and carcinogenic dyes. We strive to ensure our products are safe for our customers and their children (and pets). Our tagless tees are PVC , Saline and Phthalates free.
We hope you find this information helpful. If we may be of further assistance, our Customer Service Consultants are available 24 hours a day at email@example.com or by calling 1-800-GAP-STYLE.” – Andrea, Customer Service Consultant at Gap
One of our readers posted this comment:
Hi all, I just wanted to let you know that Old Navy, Gap, Etc. Do Have a lot of icky stuff on them. I worked at an Old Navy on the shipment team, and when they opened the boxes, the smell was horrendous! I asked my boss about it and she said there were a lot of chemicals(including formaldehyde) to keep the bugs off during the shipment. I hope this helps some who are wondering about the gap brand.
Another mom shared her ‘Gap’ experience with us:
“I recently purchased some clothing from the Gap and Old Navy. It reeked of sulfur and chemicals, even after 4 washes the smell wasn’t entirely gone. Worse yet, after 4 washes (I gave up) my daughter broke out in a horrific pimple-like rash all over her legs after wearing one of the pairs of pants. It’s interesting the chemicals they *don’t* use in their clothing, but more interesting to me would be the ones they do use, because I am appalled and feel like a terrible mother for ever having allowed their clothing to touch her precious skin.”
SafBaby’s comment: We were impressed with Gap’s prompt response (within 24 hours). After we asked some more questions, we got a reply immediately. It shows that product safety is very important and they meet stricter global formaldehyde standards but wish they would use a safer alternative to formaldehyde.
“At this point we do not use nanotechnology on our own private label babystyle branded products.” – Ana, The customer Care Team, Babystyle
SafBaby’s comment: We contacted Babystyle twice to ask if they use formaldehyde or any other chemicals in their clothing but no response so far.
“Thank you for contacting Customer Service with your question. I apologize for the delayed response. Regarding the formaldehyde. Formaldehyde in apparel and textiles is not regulated by Consumer Product Safety Commission or by US gov’t so testing is not required. It can be tested but there is no set criteria as to what level is acceptable. TCP has applied the standards used by some of the European countries and will test specific fabrications where we feel there may be a chance of formaldehyde used in the processing of the fabric. Regarding the nanotechnology – at this time none of our vendors or suppliers are using nano technology in their production process. If the child is sensitive to chemicals in the environment, you may need to consider checking out web sites to find stores that specialize in children’s clothing made form all organic cotton with minimal processing. We sincerely hope we have answered your question. If we can be of further assistance please contact us at 1-877 PLACE USA or visit us at http://www.childrensplace.com/.”- Jennifer
One of our readers (see comment below) said this: Children’s Place answered after several attempts and said that all their yarns are treated!
SafBaby’s comment: We contacted Children’s Place many times and finally got an answer. Another company that used formaldehyde!
“Thanks for your inquiry. Gymboree uses an independent third party to test all of Gymboree’s products for substances including lead, formaldehyde, phthalates and many others. The standards we set for our products currently meet or exceed those set by the CPSC and applicable state laws.” – Mark, Gymboree
SafBaby’s comment: Here is the email we replied to Gymboree “There are no standards set on formaldehyde, so we assume that it’s in your clothing. Correct? Could we see your third party test?” We have emailed Gymboree several times but did not get a reply to our second question.
Naartjie never replied to our emails but responded to one of our reader’s emails:
“Thanks for your email. We have been testing for formaldehyde since 2002 and take great care to comply with all the child safety standards. Because 97% of our clothing is “garment-dyed”, it is washed three times so will not have any chemicals or residue on the fabric and is also soft and pre-shrunk. We appreciate your email and rest assured that you can buy our clothing without concern about formaldehyde or other harmful chemicals.”
SafBaby’s comment: Glad one of our readers received a response from them! They don’t say no chemicals are used but they claim they’re all washed away. To be sure their clothes are free of formaldehyde, we need a “Yes, ALL our clothes are FREE of Formaldehyde” statement.
“Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding licensing and producing or selling Disney merchandise. We do not have have a phone number or contact person to provide you. To receive information, all requests should be written in letter format and sent to the address provided below. To obtain more information, please send your request to the address below.” – The Walt Disney Company Merchandising
SafBaby’s comment: This was Disney’s second response after letting us know the first time that they are compliant with all CPSC regulations. However, CPSC has NO regulations set for formaldehyde levels so that reply was not helpful to us in the slightest. We are not impressed with their follow up response to us.
“Thank you for contacting Babies”R”Us regarding your item inquiry. I sincerely apologize that I do not have an ingredient list available to me. I suggest that you contact the manufacturer, Amy Coe, at 203-227-9900. If you have any further questions or concerns please contact our customer service line at 1-800-869-7787.” – The Guest Relations Team at Baby R Us
SafBaby’s comment: Left message with this number that was never returned.
Email from Toys”R”Us after we published this article:
At Toys”R”Us, Inc., the safety of our customers is, and always has been, our highest priority. We have a very strict safety assurance program in place for all the products we carry. We require that any product we purchase complies with all applicable government and industry laws, codes and requirements. While formaldehyde is not regulated in infant apparel in the United States, Toys”R”Us, Inc. requires that apparel sold exclusively in its Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us stores meet a more stringent standard than required globally. Manufacturers of the company’s exclusive brands, which includes the Amy Coe line, are held accountable for meeting these standards and are required to show documentation of third-party testing. For additional information on the product safety standards at Toys”R”Us, Inc., please visit our dedicated Safety microsite, www.Toysrus.com/Safety.
Circo Brand / Target
I’m sorry to hear that the information provided on the product description page was not enough to answer your questions. Unfortunately, right now, all of the information we have about Circo Brand clothing is right on our website. I know that it can be difficult to figure out what you want to order without more information and I’m sorry if we’ve let you down. Your comments are a big help to us, and I’ll make sure to share them with our team that works with our product information. Thanks for getting in touch with us. I hope you’ll visit us again soon. - Target.com Guest Service
SafBaby’s comment: Feeling let down at this point, but not thinking anyone really cares!
We had no luck getting a response but one of our readers says this:
“Pottery Barn uses formaldehyde for their beddings since they claim that they use Easy-Care finishing (which is a mixture of urea and formaldehyde). I wrote them to ask about their Oeko-Tex certification and did not get an answer. They say that the fibers are certified but the final product is treated with Easy-Care and I concluded that the final product is not Oeko-Tex certified. Of course, they did not say anything which I assume I am right.”
SafBaby’s comment: No response to us by Pottery Barn!