While there has certainly been an intense international focus on the toxic toy products coming out of China, an investigation by TV3’s Target program in New Zealand recently revealed that woolen and cotton clothing for children made in China contained formaldehyde in levels 500 times higher than considered safe.
The chemical is used to give a permanent press effect to clothing, but according to international research supported by the World Health Organisation exposure to formaldehyde in concentrations of 20 parts per million (ppm) can cause eye, skin and nasal irritations, respiratory problems, asthma and cancer. And while European standards call for a maximum of 30 ppm, in New Zealand there is no formal regulation or inspection of clothing to ensure that it meets any standard whatsoever. Not surprisingly, the results were astounding; ranging from 230ppm to 18,000ppm!
Clearly the lack of oversight in that country leaves Kiwi’s the potential target of unscrupulous companies everywhere. And unfortunately the potential for harm wasn't limited to formaldehyde or clothing made in China either... As garments made in New Zealand itself with imported Chinese fabrics contained things like harmful dyes, including 22 aromatic amine dyes which are known carcinogens that have been banned in Europe. Of course, once again there are zero regulations as to what is accepted into New Zealand in the form of chemical dyes.
It seems it’s time for folks in that country to begin raising awareness that their children’s clothing may not be as safe as they suspect, and that it’s also time to put stringent regulations in place to shut down the brightly flashing neon sign which currently announces their vulnerability to producers of toxic products everywhere.
NZ TV bungled formaldehyde tests on Chinese clothes
By Peter Lewis
Posted Tue Sep 4, 2007 7:28am AEST
The producers of a New Zealand television program have admitted they botched tests that identified dangerous levels of formaldehyde on Chinese clothing.
TV3's Target program last month conducted tests on clothes imported from China and reportedly found formaldehyde levels 900 times higher than what is considered safe by the World Health Organisation.
But the New Zealand Retailers' Association had independent testing done on the same garments and found virtually undetectable levels of the chemical.
The program's producer, Laurie Clark, admits TV3 used the wrong testing method.
"It probably has created damaging perceptions but I think that it's really important to realise that at the time this was done there no guidelines in place for this country," he said.
He blamed a lack of time and resources for getting it wrong.