"Wrinkle-Free" May Mean the Presence of Formaldehyde

According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, formaldehyde, a chemical commonly known for its’ use in embalming, is used in clothing. The GAO(Government Accountability Office) found that the formaldehyde may cause nausea, dermatitis, exacerbation of asthma, eczma, and cancer. The report shows special concern for dermatitis.
“the health risk of greatest concern associated with formaldehyde in clothing—allergic contact dermatitis—stems from dermal exposure. A form of eczema, allergic contact dermatitis affects the immune system and produces reactions characterized by rashes, blisters, and flaky, dry skin that can itch or burn.”

A 2010 New York Times article, by Tara Siegel Bernard, covering the GAO report, notes that the formaldehyde treated “wrinkle-free finish” garments can be commonly found at many U.S. retailers. Bernard also points out the use of the formaldehyde treatment on textiles in household applications from bedding to upholstery. Also in the GAO report and noted by Bernard Is the danger to the workers who come in contact with the formaldehyde in factories. This not only is a consumer protection issue but also a workers protection issue. Bernard listed Gap, Banana Republic, Dockers, Levis, Nordstrom, and Land’s End, all retailers of non-iron clothing, as adhering to “standards” but but was vague about what standards are. She points out that there is a lack of regulation in the garment industry aside from self created standards that retailers and manufacturers may or may not adhere to.

Another 2010 article covering the GAO report in Consumer Reports, by Carolyn Cairns and Aaron Bailey, gave an account of a staffer who showed symptoms of headache and sore throat after wearing formaldehyde treated clothing. Cairns and Bailey suggest, according to the GAO report, that washing clothes can reduce the presence of formaldehyde. They also point out that there is no regulation or government oversight on chemical presence in clothing in the U.S.