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For years the textile industry has been using finishes on fabric that prevents wrinkling – usually a formaldehyde resin. Fabrics are treated with urea-formaldehyde resins to give them all sorts of easy care properties such as:
Countries such as Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Netherlands and Japan have national legislation restricting the presence of formaldehyde in textile products. But in the United States, formaldehyde levels in fabric is not regulated.
Repeated exposure to even low levels of formaldehyde can create a condition called “sensitization” where the individual becomes very sensitive to the effects of formaldehyde and then even low levels of formaldehyde can cause an “allergic” reaction.
“New TSA Unifroms Trigger a Rash of Complaints (Formaldehyde)”, The Washington Post, January 5, 2009, Steve Vogel.
Berrens, L. etal., “Free formaldehyde in textiles in relation to formalin contact sensitivity” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2133.1964.tb14488.x/abstract)