How to reduce your formaldehyde exposure

By Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

What’s colourless, preserves frogs, coats pillow cases and impregnates ‘no-iron’ shirts?

Answer: formaldehyde.

Learn how to avoid it by watching me on The Dr. Oz show (date TBA)! I’m a guest expert. (For real. They flew me to New York to tape and eat half my weight in complimentary green room hummus.)

Formaldehyde is used in clothing, bedding and curtains because it

1. Prevents wrinkles
2. Prevents mildew during shipping
3. Increases colour fastness
4. Increases stain resistance

Why get your knickers in a knot?

1. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen says the International Agency for Research on Cancer (PDF); Canada has also declared it toxic and the U.S. doesn’t regulate its use in clothing
2. You won’t find it listed on the label
3. Even low-level exposure can cause headache, runny nose or contact dermatitis a.k.a. skin irritation a.k.a. rash

Formaldehyde is particularly troublesome for those with chemical sensitivities, which may explain why you’re still suffering from rashes or eczema even after switching to less-toxic laundry soap and ditching fragranced dryer sheets.

Reduce your formaldehyde exposure:

1. Wash all clothes and linens BEFORE wearing or using—gets rid of about 60 per cent of the stuff
2. Avoid products labelled “wrinkle-free”, “iron-free”, “permanent-press” or “stain-resistant”
3. Perform a “sniff test”—if it smells chemical-y, don’t buy it, or return it
4. Choose organic cottons

What household goods have you found to be the worst off-gassing offenders?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

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