Dean David Brookstein Testifies to Senate Subcommittee on Formaldehyde in Textiles

David Brookstein, dean of the School of Engineering and Textiles and executive director of the Institute for Textile and Apparel Product Safety (ITAPS), testified before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday, April 28, on the need for research into the possible health effects of formaldehyde in textiles and apparel.

“This is a matter of great concern to the American public,” Brookstein told the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. “The possible health effects from formaldehyde exposure are not fully studied or understood.”

Formaldehyde is used to give a wrinkle-free finish to clothing and textiles. By researching the prevalence of formaldehyde and other potentially toxic chemicals, such as dyes and finishes, used commonly in clothing, “we will be able to determine just what chemicals and at what levels could pose risks to all of us, especially our children – and possibly lead to medical conditions ranging from contact dermatitis to neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and possibly cancer,” Brookstein said in his written testimony.

While many industrialized countries limit exposure to formaldehyde in textiles, the U.S. has only voluntary industry standards, Brookstein told the panel, led by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas.

Brookstein and others at the hearing called for the General Accounting Office to move forward with a study on formaldehyde and textiles called for in last year’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) legislation. The study is supposed to be completed by August 2010.

Senator Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, who introduced the CPSC amendment calling for the study, said at yesterday’s hearing that such a study would lay the groundwork for any necessary regulation of “this harmful substance” that would result in “stronger protection for children and families.”

ITAPS was established in fall 2007 following widespread recalls and concerns about the safety of imported goods. The vast majority of clothing and textiles sold in the U.S. today is imported, and “we can’t be sure what’s coming in,” Brookstein told the subcommittee.

To read Brookstein’s full written testimony, go to
http://commerce.senate.gov/public/_files/DavidBrooksteinFormaldehydeTestimony.pdf.

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