New Zealand TV Program Says Chinese-Made Children's Clothes Are Contaminated With Formaldehyde

The New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs is investigating claims made by a New Zealand television program that Chinese-made children’s clothes are contaminated with formaldehyde. The consumer watchdog program tested woolen and cotton clothes after receiving a complaint that a child had suffered an allergic reaction.

The tests concluded that some clothes had concentrations of formaldehyde 900 times the “level that causes harm.” Formaldehyde is used as a preservative and as an embalming fluid and may cause cancer. From the Washington Post:

“Target” production manager Juanita Dobson said the garments tested were “randomly selected items” that are “readily available from common outlets round New Zealand.”

“We are not releasing further details” of brand names or importers ahead of the show airing on Tuesday, she told The Associated Press.

A woman with the media office of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, who gave only her surname Xia, said she had not heard of the New Zealand case. The administration is China’s product safety watchdog.

People who answered phones at the China National Garment Association and the China Textile Industry Association also said they had not heard of the case.

The program’s director, Candace McNabb, says the lab was shocked by how high the level of contamination was:

“We were tipped off by a consumer who contacted us because her son had bought 100 per cent cotton pants and had an allergic reaction to them,” she said.

“So we started looking into the types of chemicals that are used in production and manufacture of clothing and treatments that they receive along the way. For example, something like formaldehyde is used to prevent mould and mildew, things like that.”

“Quite often we hear about formaldehyde in building materials and things like that, so it was quite hard to find out what it would mean on clothing, but basically there are worries about it being cancer-causing and things like that.

“The laboratory we spoke to was really surprised at the results and actually went back and double-checked that they’d done everything right because our results were so high.”

NZ Investigates China Clothes Imports [Washington Post]
NZ tests find formaldehyde in Chinese-made clothes [ABC News, Australia]