By: Melanie Forti, Program Director

Let’s face it, buying new clothes gives us that great sensation especially when you find that piece of clothing that fits you perfectly and makes you feel great. You love it so much that you can’t wait to put it on as soon as you get home. Even with all the excitement it is very important that we wash our new clothes before wearing them because they are covered with multiple chemicals that can rub on your skin.  The chemicals used array between formaldehyde, fungicides and other allergenic compounds in order to help clothes resist wrinkles and shrinkage.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) define formaldehyde as a colorless, strong-smelling gas often found in water based solutions. Commonly used as a preservative in medical laboratories and mortuaries, formaldehyde is also found in many products such as chemicals, particle board, household products, glues, permanent press fabrics, paper product coatings, fiberboard, and plywood. It is also widely used as an industrial fungicide, germicide and disinfectant.


Let’s rewind for a minute, and think about this example. Cotton is harvested in 17 states across the southern half of the US. While cultivating cotton many pesticides and fertilizers are used.  After the cotton is processed into fabric, it becomes clothing. Then we have the added number of chemicals used in clothes to prevent them from decaying. We are wearing plenty chemicals that are absorbed through our skin and eventually it can lead to devastating health effects. But don’t get discourage, there ways to prevent our skin from absorbing the chemicals used in our clothes.

It is very important that you take the time to wash all your new clothes before wearing it.  Some immediate effects are burning sensation, skin rash, allergies, cough, headache, nausea and even shortness of breath.  Studies have linked Formaldehyde to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental toxicity and.

  • Children and adults are likely to be exposed to formaldehyde in the same way. The most common way
  • for children to be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing it. Children may also be exposed by wearing
  • some types of new clothes or cosmetics. A small number of studies have looked at the health effects of
  • formaldehyde in children. It is very likely that breathing formaldehyde will result in nose and eye
  • irritation (burning feeling, itchy, tearing, and sore throat).