Formaldehyde, In Your Undies.
When you hear the word formaldehyde, what do you think? The first thing I think is "Wowzer... Toxic" because the smell alone knocks me over. Second, I go straight to 9th-grade frog dissection and then I get a flood of toxic high school memories (so many bad cosmetics and food choices).
Formaldehyde replaces blood in embalming, so it's a key part of those dissection lessons. In a controlled science environment, it has its place. In fact, formaldehyde is a natural compound and is created by most living organisms (including humans). In small doses, it may not bother you, but it can be a pretty nasty chemical. Formaldehyde is combustible, corrosive and toxic. We should all be aware of where we come into contact with it and make educated choices to lessen our exposure.
Skin Exposure & Inhalation
In small doses, formaldehyde is an irritant -- with long-term exposure, it's classified as a "known human carcinogen". Irritation from formaldehyde takes the form of nausea, coughing and wheezing, nosebleeds, watery and burning eyes and skin rash. The scarier aspect of formaldehyde is its links to cancer.
Brands and manufacturers will tell you that formaldehyde won't hurt you when it's in cosmetics and clothing because the real danger is inhalation. Inhalation is probably the biggest risk -- and you may be inhaling more than you think from clothing, cosmetics and even your car. When materials that contain formaldehyde are exposed to heat, they off-gas. When you open your car door after work on a hot sunny day and the whiff of chemical smell hits you -- that's off-gassing. Toxins in your everyday products, like clothing and cosmetics, off-gas, and you inhale.
You're getting a bigger dose of formaldehyde than you think... even if you don't get a Victoria's Secret rash. Example: When you wear a sports bra with a sweat-wicking material, it contains formaldehyde and there will be off-gassing. Additionally, heat and humidity cause your pores to open, so you absorb more of these chemicals. Between absorption and inhalation, and from basic irritation to long-term effects, it's worth noting what products contain formaldehyde and avoiding what you're able to.
Most of us are aware that formaldehyde is in building materials and household cleaners. But with the above knowledge of off-gassing and skin absorption, it's time to check what you wear.
In regards to everyday clothing-formaldehyde is used to "stabilize" fabrics, so it's often used in garments to reduce wrinkling and shrinking in the dryer. It's in tons of clothes. When your clothes are labeled static-free, anti-shrink, waterproof, or sweat-proof, there's a good chance there is formaldehyde. It's no surprise that chemicals in clothing are being linked to a host of issues.
Bedding - This lines up with clothing, and for the same reasons. But think how much time you spend in bed (half your life?). Solve? Organic cotton sheet.
Bras - Of course, we have to cover this one. This is from where our passion stems. Most top brands use formaldehyde in their padding. Check out our fave, The Vibrant Body Bra, which is 100% toxin free.
With lax regulation, nasty chemicals have found their way into many of our daily products. You don't need to run scared, but it's important to be aware and empowered to make healthier choices. Read your labels (seriously, check for a flammable warning on your undies). And keep coming back here for more tips to help you live a more toxic-free life.