Wrinkle Free Clothes – Formaldehyde?

Are wrinkle free clothes worth the risk to your health?
Are wrinkle free clothes worth the risk to your health?
Who doesn’t love to buy clothing that says “Wrinkle-Free” right on the label? Wrinkle free clothes – what could be better? Once you learn what makes the clothes wrinkle free, you may not want to buy them.

Perhaps I’ve become jaded or cynical, but my first thought when I saw wrinkle free clothes showing up in the stores was – What are they using to make that happen. Turns out to be a good question because the answer is formaldehyde[1]!

But, isn’t that what the frog you dissected in biology class had been stored in? Isn’t formaldehyde the primary ingredient in embalming fluid? Why yes, it is the same formaldehyde. So why would you want it in your clothing?

Formaldehyde is also used in building materials such as plywood. It is used in clothing, draperies, sheets, pillow cases, and upholstered furniture. It is also used in many personal care products. Sadly, it isn’t labeled, it isn’t regulated and there is no disclosure required.

Wrinkle Free Clothes – Why Formaldehyde?

My favorite question: Why? It seems that clothing treated with a resin that releases formaldehyde won’t wrinkle when they are washed. So it’s a huge time-saver. As often happens with our time-savers, we give up a bit of our quality of life.

Wrinkle Free Clothes – Is it Safe?

Some may ask – Is it safe? I say no, absolutely not. What you put on your skin, gets on your body. And if the formaldehyde is released, then you’re also breathing it in.

Unfortunately, it’s big business and my opinion doesn’t matter. According to the New York Times article [1], most people won’t have a problem with it. It’s the old argument that the biggest problem most of us are likely to encounter is contact dermatitis. Even though the article points out “it can have serious health implications for people who work with the chemical in factories.”

There are many sources of formaldehyde in our world: the clothing and other products mentioned above, cigarette smoke, fungicides, germicides, disinfectants, pressed-wood products, glues, adhesives, and some insulation [2]. Any of these products containing formaldehyde can release it into the air. An additional source of formaldehyde in the air is from automobile emissions.

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) [3], formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. The OSHA article addresses exposure in a factory setting. But I wonder what level, if any, is really safe?

I talked with someone last week who suddenly, seemingly overnight, developed a sensitivity to formaldehyde and many other chemicals. But I don’t believe it really was sudden. When the body ingests toxins, either through digestion, skin, or breathing, the liver has the job of dealing with them. It works to detox them, but can get overloaded. At that point, the toxins are stored in fat cells. Over time, they build up to the point that people can’t really handle them anymore. This is what happens to the workers in the factory. Our world is full of toxins. Over time, the build up can exceed our body capacity to detox for any one of us.

With my history of chemical sensitivities, I avoid the wrinkle free clothes. It’s not worth the exposure for me.

What are your thoughts on formaldehyde and wrinkle-free clothes? Are you willing to risk your health and the health of your family?

[1] When Wrinkle-Free Clothing Also Means Formaldehyde Fumes
[2] Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk
[3] Formaldehyde

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