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Is it true new fabrics has formaldehyde which can cause cancer? Answered

 Hi All,

I love sewing and went to store to buy some fabrics and saw this warning,

Fabrics contain formaldehyde which can cause cancer.

Is this true? how can I protect myself. will washing the fabric prior to use help?

please advise


7 Replies

Kiteman (author)2010-05-23
"NICNAS has recently conducted a full review of the use and toxicity of formaldehyde.

The NICNAS assessment found that the most likely health effects arising from release of formaldehyde from domestic products such as blankets and clothing textiles are irritation of the eyes and nose, and allergic reactions on skin in contact with the clothes.

Breathing formaldehyde vapour can result in irritation of nerves in the eyes and nose, which may cause burning, stinging or itching sensations, a sore throat, teary eyes, blocked sinuses, runny nose, and sneezing.

Skin contact with formaldehyde can cause skin rashes and allergic skin reactions. The levels of exposure which may cause these allergic reactions will vary between individuals, and will depend in part on the individual’s previous allergy history. Instances of dermatitis arising from wearing clothing containing high levels of formaldehyde have been documented.

The NICNAS review also found that formaldehyde can have other health effects, but these occur at much higher levels than can be released from textile products."


Basically - yes, there are formaldehyde-based substances in fabrics, but if you have not already suffered an allergic reaction to the clothes you wear, then you are not going to be harmed by using them for sewing.

The sign you saw was a knee-jerk reaction to poorly-written health and safety regulations.

There is no such think as a "100% safe" substance - even oxygen and water are toxic if too much is consumed too quickly.

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lemonie (author)Kiteman2010-05-23

That's what I pointed to. I'm slightly miffed that you've re-presented exactly the same answer without acknowledging mine.


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NachoMahma (author)lemonie2010-05-23

.  It's different enough that I think it falls under Kiteman's Law. A bit more explanation than you gave and one doesn't have to follow a link or load a PDF.
.  You gave a good answer, but, like a lot of my answers, it was rather short and sweet - Kiteman was more "user friendly."

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lemonie (author)NachoMahma2010-05-24

The quality is irrelevant, I try not to miss previous answers else I think I might have trod on someone's toes.... that's me. That was after "enjoying an afternoon in the sun with some nice-beer" though (I was trashed..).


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Kiteman (author)lemonie2010-05-23

Oops, sorry.

I didn't actually realise they were the same links...

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lemonie (author)2010-05-23

Yes, this document explains it quite well.
In summary: you might be irritated, but washing will probably do you.
The levels are too low for a real cancer risk


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steveastrouk (author)2010-05-23

Not all fabrics contain formaldehydes, synthetics MIGHT do, but its not a necessary ingredient. If you're worried, air the fabrics outside for a bit.

My wife recommends washing fabrics before working them anyway she says.


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