Toxic Formaldehyde Hides In Children’s Clothing and Bedding

December 30, 2008 | 6 Comments

It would seem that the last place a parent would think to be concerned about finding toxic gas in our child’s environment is in their clothing and bedding, but sure enough, here it is!  (And we aren’t talking poopy pants here folks.)

We are talking about FORMALDEHYDE.  And yes, formaldehyde is probably hiding in some of your babies clothing and bedding right now!

Recently, a study was done on children’s clothing manufactured in China.  What they found was up to 900 times the level of formaldehyde considered safe by the World Health Organization hiding in some of this clothing.  Yep, you read it right….900 times!

The Dangers of Formaldehyde

I typically think of formaldehyde as a preservative for dead bodies.  Or, if you have ever seen those effective ads, to persuade children against smoking cigarettes, you may also think of formaldehyde as a deadly ingredient in cigarettes too.

Formaldehyde is a toxic gas that can be dangerous in our children’s environments for many reasons.

“These toxic fumes, even in small amounts, can cause nose and eye irritation (burning, itchy, tearing, and sore throat) in children as well as in adults.

Long-term exposure and high concentrations of formaldehyde can lead to cancer.  In animal studies, rats exposed to high levels of formaldehyde in air developed nose cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that formaldehyde may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen.” 1

So, a whopping 900 times the level considered safe being cloaked on our children is scary.

Limits of Formaldehyde in Textiles

USA does not have  any safety standard in place when it comes to formaldehyde limits in textiles.  ANYTHING GOES HERE!

Japan and some European countries (Austria, Finland,  Germany, Norway and Netherlands and others), laid down national  legislation restricting the presence of formaldehyde in textile products.

For example in Germany, following label must be added to textiles: “Contains Formaldehyde. It is recommended to wash this garment before the first use to avoid irritation of the skin” (This notice must be shown either on the product itself, its packaging or its label.)

Why Formaldehyde Is Used In Clothing and Bedding

It is commonly used in the textile manufacturing industry as a stain resistant mechanism, to fix color to a fabric, to give a permanent press effect, to stop shrinking and to make fabric more flame resistant. Also, to prevent mildew, manufacturers use formaldehyde to treat clothes that have to be shipped a long way (Asia to the United States).

The application of formaldehyde primarily concerns cotton, viscose, linen and their blends with synthetic fibers.

Safe Alternative Measures To Help Avoid Formaldehyde Exposure

  • Buy 100% Certified Organic Fibers.
  • ALWAYS wash clothing and bedding (including comforters) before using. It may not completely wash out, but it will greatly reduce exposure.  An additional tip here is to do an overnight soak cycle with your new clothing, adding a cup of baking soda or white vinegar.
  • Contact manufacturers directly to see if they contain formaldehyde.  And, we will be doing that for you too.  Stay tuned for our letters and responses from popular clothing stores.
  • Look for formaldehyde-free labels, some companies voluntarily do not use formaldehyde in their clothing and bedding.

Call for Restriction and Labeling of Formaldehyde in Textiles

Help us take action today!  Sign Safbaby’s petition to ask President-Elect Barack Obama to restrict/label formaldehyde use in textiles.

Remember, change comes from the bottom up – so we can make a difference! Please let your family and friends know about our petition, so we reach our goal of 10,000 signatures soon!  Help us make 2009 a year of positive change for our babies.

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Category: 0-1 yr, 1-3 yrs, 3-5 yrs, 5+ yrs, Clothing, Indoor Air Pollution, Petition, Toys

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  • Andrea

    I’ve been searching for fun chemical free bedding to help transition my son to his own bed. What is available is overly priced. I was searching Pottery Barn’s website and found 100% organic cotton sheets that are Oeko-Tex certified BUT the next line states, “treated with an Easy care finish”. I called to find out what this means and was told they are treated with a wrinkle guard. But as of next month they will no longer be treated and the customer rep said the sheets would need to be removed from the dryer immediately to reduce wrinkles! I told her wrinkles were the least of my concerns, I don’t want my kids sleeping in chemicals.

  • Renee

    My daughter got two jeans dresses from Gymboree for her 1st birthday about a year ago. They smelled really bad and even though I washed them like 5 times, they still smelled horribly. I never used them and ended up giving them away. They must have put tons of formaldehyde in these dresses. Not all of Gymboree’s clothing smells though.

  • Krista

    What about wool that is used to knit the baby blankets I recieved as gifts? Would that be treated?

  • Baron

    Children have the most sensitive skin. Exposure to harsh chemicals could result into hypersensitivity reactions such as dermatitis. To be safe and have a peace of mind, we parents must provide our children with clothes that are 100% organic like the products of . They have great products for children and for adults too.

  • Ashley

    I don’t know about formaldehyde in wool, but wool yarn, fabric, and rugs are sometimes treated with a toxic mothproofing chemical. Best to stick with organic merino wool for baby blankets and clothes.

  • safbaby

    Thank you for the info!!!

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