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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Health - Consumer Alert

Raw Story links to a report in the Financial Times that clothes imported from China are contaminated with up to 900 times as much formaldehyde as is deemed safe by a New Zealand consumer watchdog agency.
[...] Manufacturers sometimes apply formaldehyde to clothes to prevent mildew. It can cause skin rashes, irritation to the eyes and throat and allergic reactions.

The Warehouse, a New Zealand retailer, issued a recall at the weekend for children’s pyjamas made in China after two children were burned when their flannelette nightclothes caught fire.

The New Zealand investigation is the first time that the safety of Chinese clothes has been called into question
The Chinese government is alleging that the contamination scares are being driven by protectionism.

I didn't think they'd respond to U.S. attempts to force them to adhere to food safety standards, because food exports are such a small part of their total trade volume. However, this new scare might hit home.
Economists say the safety scandals have so far had limited impact on exports, in part as toys accounted for less than 1 per cent of overall exports last year, while foodstuffs made up 1.4 per cent.

Textiles and clothing made up more than 13 per cent of exports in the first half of the year.

“The textile sector is a much more important part of China’s exports so this will be more of a cause for concern for the authorities,” said Mark Williams, an economist at Capital Economics in London. “However, these cases are still a drop in the ocean in terms of China’s overall trade.”
Formaldehyde is routinely applied to building materials and furnishings, according to a training module designed by Rutgers in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other organizations. That module describes some of the results of formaldehyde exposure:
Low doses cause watery eyes or burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat. Larger doses can cause nausea, breathing difficulties, headaches, and fatigue. High doses can cause asthma attacks. Some people are highly sensitive to formaldehyde and react to concentrations that would not bother other people.

Formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but to date there is limited evidence it has caused increased incidence of cancer in humans. Nevertheless, it is classified as a "probable human carcinogen" by the EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Good grief! Truly, nothing is safe.

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