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PSA: Stop posting propaganda / false information about non-iron shirts and formaldehyde

teknique22

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For people like myself, who have researched non-iron shirts and only come across thread after thread on this forum only to be inundated by the lack of knowledge on the subject related to the toxicity and false concern/worry around formaldehyde contained within non-iron shirts is absolutely disturbing on so many levels. Please look into this matter more deeply for yourself and ask actual scientists and people who know what they are talking about around the matter to learn that there is nothing to worry about in relation to formaldehyde and non-iron shirts - it's not even correct information that's being spouted on these forums by tailors and menswear enthusiasts, and it's just outright wrong information.

It is absolutely absurd the level of shirt retailers and tailors who are incorrectly and almost entirely unethically causing alarm and panic to customers when they are not correctly educated on the topic, nor possess the credentials necessary to be spouting anything related to the matter at all, considering there are an abundance of studies displaying the opposite findings of their pseudo-science narrative.

Please see the below for information from an actual scientist on the matter, and related topics that show just how overblown this false narrative being pushed by members of this community and others on how much of a fake concern this really is.

Formaldehyde in Clothing and Non-Iron Shirts

History of Formaldehyde in Textiles

Formaldehyde resins have been used to treat textiles, particularly cotton since the 1920’s. Formaldehyde treatments are usually applied to combat wrinkling, improve stain resistance/colorfastness, and prevent mildew. Essentially, it has been used to make apparel fabrics easier to care for, transport, and manufacture over the last 100 years.

Government Regulations Improve Consumer Safety
Not until 1973 were formaldehyde levels in textiles monitored for safety purposes by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). [bold]The results indicated that an insignificant number of people were actually affected by this treatment of textiles.[/bold] A similar study was performed in 1984, again revealing that textile treatment was not a health concern, with an insignificant number of subjects experiencing mild skin irritation.

In the textile industry, regulations dictate that 100 ppm (or less) formaldehyde concentration in textiles is safe for human contact. In the previously mentioned 1984 study, 67% of apparel tested for formaldehyde indicated levels above 100 ppm. [bold]However, with the rise in regulations worldwide to protect textile/apparel laborers and consumers alike, GAO reports from 2003 and later have found less than 2% of apparel in the US tested above 100 ppm.[/bold]

Allergic (Skin Irritation) Reactions Affect Few
The main health concern related to formaldehyde in apparel is allergic contact dermatitis (itchy rashes caused by skin contact). Again, the 1984 study revealed that less than 2% of the population experienced skin irritation, even at a time when overall formaldehyde levels in clothing were much higher than at present.

[bold]“Basically, this has not been a problem for years,” says Phillip Wakelyn, a fabric consultant in Washington, D.C., who worked for many years in the apparel and cotton industry. “I have dealt with this issue since the Occupational Safety & Health Administration was working on a standard for formaldehyde in the early 1980s.” Further, he adds, “Studies done over the past 20 years show that you would need a concentration of about 300 ppm on the fabric before dermatitis is likely to be a problem.”[/bold]

However, for consumers with notoriously sensitive skin or those that just wish to play it safe, it’s best to wash all clothing before wearing.

Airborne Formaldehyde vs. On-Fabric
The general population’s worry over formaldehyde in clothes may come from recent reports on the potential risk of cancer from airborne exposure to formaldehyde. Airborne formaldehyde is much riskier and has documented serious health effects, thus it is very strictly regulated.

Because airborne formaldehyde is significantly more harmful than textile formaldehyde, OSHA regulations suggest a much lower threshold for airborne exposure, usually around .5 ppm. However, once a shirt is outside of the treating location it is extremely unlikely for any formaldehyde in the fabric to become airborne at all and very little is even transferred to the skin. For these reasons and the previously described testing, any fabrics under 100 ppm are deemed safe for daily usage. But we do suggest washing any formaldehyde treated fabrics to further minimize this already negligible risk and avoid any potential allergic reactions for sensitive skin.

Source: https://pubs.acs.org/cen/government/88/8836gov2.html & an unnamed retailer that I am neglecting to name due to this not being an advertisement.


I have a PhD in Nutrition, and would like to jump in here. I know what you're thinking:

Why should we care about your PhD in Nutrition, u/Sdneidich?

Because metabolism of formaldehyde is the real questions we should consider here: If you are unable to metabolize formaldehyde, then the formaldehyde ends up performing its' chemical actions that we'd prefer to avoid. Specifically, it causes protein cross-linking which forms aggregates and can kill cells.

So should I be concerned that those Non-Irons from my favorite store will give me cancer? Not really. See, Formaldehyde is a catalyst for this reaction, but is highly water soluble. You can get rid of excess formaldehyde with a wash or two, and any remaining should be so tightly locked up within the fibers of your clothing that it will never come out in sufficient quantities to cause a problem. In short, the effect of the formaldehyde persists: But the formaldehyde itself is long gone.

What if you're wrong, and there is formaldehyde getting on my skin when it rains, etc? Clothing must test lower than 100 ppm formaldehyde to be legal, and biological reactions (like dermatitis/rash) have only been observed around a minimum of 300 ppm formaldehyde. But even if you do get minor exposure, your skin has a layer of dead cells that will protect living cells from formaldehyde exposure.

What about vapor exposure? (added in an edit) This is a real concern for some people: textile workers. Getting vapor exposure to formaldehyde can fix your lungs and cause lung damage. But to get that level of formaldehyde from your shirts, or anything achieving a detectable health detriment, you'd have to get close to a textile worker's level of exposure. So take all of your non-iron clothing, but it in the oven, warm to 225 F, and stick your head in there: You just might get some formaldehyde fumes. But more likely you will get a fire, and that's the major concern here.

TL;DR: This article is scarce on details and alarmist in nature. I'm going to keep wearing my non-iron shirts, and suggest you do the same if you like them.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/malefashio...re_dipped_in_a_resin/?st=jb2xway6&sh=952908fc
 
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teknique22

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I have yet to find a non-iron shirt I'd genuinely like to wear due to how the fabric feels to the touch.

I'm not exactly sure what your personal preference for fabric choice has to do with misleading people into believing the non-iron treatment is "unsafe". Personal fabric choices for a variety of reasons warrants a thread entirely in itself, and has no bearing on the false information being taught on these forums and others around the safety of formaldehyde in clothing. It's scientifically inaccurate and continues to be pushed by people who can't be bothered to research for themselves the actual merits of the claims they are making.
 

Andy57

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For people like myself, who have researched non-iron shirts and only come across thread after thread on this forum only to be inundated by the lack of knowledge on the subject related to the toxicity and false concern/worry around formaldehyde contained within non-iron shirts is absolutely disturbing on so many levels. Please look into this matter more deeply for yourself and ask actual scientists and people who know what they are talking about around the matter to learn that there is nothing to worry about in relation to formaldehyde and non-iron shirts - it's not even correct information that's being spouted on these forums by tailors and menswear enthusiasts, and it's just outright wrong information.
So what? I don't care what is used to make fabric "wrinkle free". Non iron shirts are ugly, feel horrible, and are not even remotely actually wrinkle-free (or non-iron, or whatever). Apart from that, I guess, they're fine.
 

teknique22

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So what? I don't care what is used to make fabric "wrinkle free". Non iron shirts are ugly, feel horrible, and are not even remotely actually wrinkle-free (or non-iron, or whatever). Apart from that, I guess, they're fine.

That's wonderful and you're certainly entitled to your own personal preference for what feels right on you. I don't see where you got the idea that I was trying to advocate that non-iron shirts should be the golden standard in everyone's wardrobe. Nowhere in my entire post do I see, as I read it for the second time, where I'm personally advocating one fabric being best.

Yet again, however, this post is not advocating that non-iron is the golden standard in fabric choices. I'm not exactly sure what the confusion here is since this is the second post by a user feeling attacked because they personally don't care for non-iron shirts. How did you read my entire post and come to the conclusion that I was personally advocating that non-iron feels better to you? I'd love to see what sentence left you with that impression.

The point of this post, as I state it for the second time, is that there is scientifically, ethically inaccurate information being pushed by members of this forum in regards to the safety of non-iron clothing. That is my entire point. That members of this community, who are not scientists or at all accurately educated on the topic, are playing a role that they have no basis in playing - that is, as a scientist, and are telling other members that non-iron shirts are somehow harmful to you due to formaldehyde being used in the manufacturing process.

None of that is true. Stop telling people that non-iron shirts are not safe for wear due to the way it's manufactured. This is a scare tactic, and a false narrative that has no basis in reality. I do not have an issue with you personally preferring one fabric or another. I have an issue with people telling others that it is harmful to their body to wear non-iron shirts. This is not true. It's false. It's fake news. It's unethical. It's not fair.

Please understand the point of this post before commenting again. The point of this post is to educate members of this forum as to the safety of wearing non-iron clothing, should they choose to do so. It is completely harmless and formaldehyde being used in the manufacturing process has been shown, through many studies, to be safe and completely fine for people to wear. Thanks!
 
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Andy57

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That's wonderful and you're certainly entitled to your own personal preference for what feels right on you. I don't see where you got the idea that I was trying to advocate that non-iron shirts should be the golden standard in everyone's wardrobe. Nowhere in my entire post do I see, as I read it for the second time, where I'm personally advocating one fabric being best.
I didn't suggest that you were.

Please understand the point of this post before commenting again. The point of this post is to educate members of this forum as to the safety of wearing non-iron clothing, should they choose to do so. It is completely harmless and formaldehyde being used in the manufacturing process has been shown, through many studies, to be safe and completely fine for people to wear. Thanks!
It seems to me the safest way to wear a non-iron shirt is to simply not wear them. Then it matters not at all whether formaldehyde is safe or not.

Incidentally, I've never read anything here about non-iron shirts being unsafe or harmful to wear. Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough. I suspect the only harm that would come from wearing a non-iron shirt would be to one's self-respect.
 

GBR

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So, what is anyone to do? Demand to know what chemicals have been used in the manufacture of the garment? I doubt any shop assistant would have a clue - many would not even know of formaldehyde.

I don't touch 'non-iron' shirts (or trousers), they are nothing of the sort but each to his own.
 

Andy57

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Yeah, I can’t quite recall but the OP might be someone I remember starting trouble before. Apologies if I’ve got the identity wrong but something about that name stands out in a bad way.
Perhaps, but there sure is a lot of energy being expended defending Formaldehyde. I don't understand, of all the things to get agitated about, why this one?
 

zippyh

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My guess would be it’s caused by formaldehyde in non-iron shirts.
 

jrd617

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Is the OP from the formaldehyde lobby? Seems to be taking this awfully seriously.
 

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