This week, the New York Times reported on the ubiquity of formaldehyde, and specifically talked about its common use in "wrinkle free" clothing that many of us buy. Formaldehyde is bad for our health -- it's a carcinogenic chemical that is an extreme irritant to the eyes, nose and throat.
"Though it is not obvious from the label, the antiwrinkle finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical that is usually associated with embalming fluids or dissected frogs in biology class," said the article.
It goes on to talk about the other places in our home where formaldehyde lingers: curtains, pillowcases, textiles of all sorts, shampoos, lotions, and eye shadow.
Formaldehyde doesn't affect everyone, but it is bad for workers who come into contact with it, and to some who use products containing it. But here's the thing: when a chemical is known to have adverse effects for some people, isn't it a no-brainer that we should be told that the chemical is contained in the product, especially if it's in high levels?
What if your child was sensitive to formaldehyde? Given current toxics laws, there is very small chance that you would be able to find out what products contained formaldehyde. Even the Brazilian Blowout chemicals -- which contained more than 50 times the level recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) -- did not have ingredients listed, and required detective work by a curious stylist.
Once again, we are in the position of playing catch-up with the chemical industry, depending on an independent organization to uncover the use of a toxic chemical and then having to go after the industry to regulate that chemical. Which is backward, to say the least.
This is why we're working so hard to push Congress to overhaul the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (TSCA). We deserve to be able to protect our families by knowing if toxic chemicals are contained in our products, and we should be able to request that companies find safer alternatives.
In the meantime, Mother Nature News has a few tips for avoiding formaldehyde, when possible. Their tips include washing clothes before wearing them, avoiding clothes marketed as "wrinkle-free", and buying used clothing.