ACCC tests for formaldehyde in clothing

23 August 2007

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun testing a range of clothing for significant residual formaldehyde following heightened public concerns.

"There is currently no evidence that clothing in the Australian market contains unacceptably high levels of formaldehyde," ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today.

"But over recent months there have been two recalls of blankets which had residual amounts of formaldehyde which may cause short term skin or respiratory irritation for some individuals.

"More recently, New Zealand media reports indicated that tests of some children's and adult clothing resulted in formaldehyde levels that were excessive when compared with limits set in regulations or guidelines in several countries.

"Formaldehyde is often used in the production process for clothing and other textiles. However, formaldehyde is both soluble in water and volatile and very little, if any, residual formaldehyde should remain in final textile products.

"The ACCC is working with the Department of Health and Ageing and seeking other expert advice on an appropriate maximum level for formaldehyde in clothing and textiles.

"In the interim, the ACCC will use the European Union benchmark for the applicable maximum residue limits for formaldehyde. These are 30 parts per million for infant garments, 75ppm for garments which contact the skin and 300ppm million for other garments or fabrics.

"In the interim, if any consumers are concerned about the possible effects of any residual formaldehyde in clothing they are advised to wash or clean the garments in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and thoroughly air them before they are worn.

"Available information indicates that any residual formaldehyde is greatly reduced by washing and airing the product."

Release number: 
MR 227/07
ACCC Infocentre: 

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