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Formaldehyde - the Real Scandal

Formaldehyde - the Real Scandal

New Zealanders have been misled - by TV3 and Government laboratory AgriQuality. The Importers Institute reveals details of a scandal of shonky science.

It all started when the TV3 show "Target" announced that it had commissioned from AgriQuality tests on clothes imported from China. The show's producer, Simon Roy, said the results were so astounding the AgriQuality scientists thought they had made a mistake. "Our results were shocking, ranging from 230ppm to 18,000ppm. This is almost unbelievable. Some of the clothes Target tested have a reading 900 times the level that actually causes harm." Mr Roy also said "the wearers of the clothing are effectively being poisoned."

Green MP Sue Kedgley says there are no controls to protect people from the toxins in imported clothing and manufacturers are not acting responsibly. She said there is no minimum standard in New Zealand to control the levels of toxic substances in fabrics and the Government needs to regulate the market. Her colleague Sue Bradford said that this was one more reason why New Zealanders should buy locally made goods, instead of imports.

Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard said she would ask for a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador if test results revealed widespread safety issues. Up and down the country, worried consumers returned Chinese-made clothes to retailers.

When the AgriQuality scientists said that the results were so astounding they thought they had made a mistake, they were on to something. It turned out that had, in fact, made a mistake. A big mistake. They tested using a method that measures a garment's total formaldehyde. This produces far higher figures than tests for free formaldehyde.

It is free formaldehyde that is considered potentially dangerous. Liz MacPherson, General Manager of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs said that was the internationally recognised ISO approved testing methodology for testing formaldehyde in textiles.

The Government has now ordered more tests - to be done properly, this time - from the same laboratory. The Importers Institute says that TV3 and AgriQuality owe New Zealanders an apology for promoting a consumer scare based on nothing more than shonky science.


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