New Zealand investigates chemical contaminant in Chinese clothing imports
Monday, August 20, 2007 - WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) The China Post
The New Zealand government launched an investigation Monday after children's clothes imported from China were found to contain dangerous levels of the chemical formaldehyde, officials said.
The probe was ordered after scientists testing clothes for TV3's "Target" consumer watchdog program discovered formaldehyde concentrations up to 900 times above the safe level in woolen and cotton clothes from China.
"Target" producer Simon Roy said scientists from government agency AgriQuality had tested a variety of new children's and adult's clothes and the results were so astounding they thought they had made a mistake.
"Our results were shocking, ranging from 230 ppm (parts per million) to 18,000 ppm," he said. "Some of the clothes tested have a reading of 900 times the level that actually causes harm."
Formaldehyde _ a preservative that is used to give a permanent press effect to clothes and also as an embalming fluid _ can cause problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs general manager Liz MacPherson said it had launched an investigation into the nature and size of the problem.
"We're taking some urgent action to investigate it ... We're taking it very seriously," she told National Radio.
"Target" production manager Juanita Dobson said the garments tested were "randomly selected items" that are "readily available from common outlets around New Zealand."
Dobson told The Associated Press that "Target" producers would not release details of brand names or importers ahead of the show's airing on Tuesday.
Cut price retailer The Warehouse issued a recall for children's pajamas made in China at the weekend after two children were burned when their flannelette pajamas caught fire.
The Warehouse's corporate affairs manager, Cynthia Church, said the pajamas had a label that read: 'Made in China' and 'Low Fire Danger.'
Church said all children's nightwear sold in New Zealand must comply with rigorous safety standards.
"As a result, the (consumer watchdog) Commerce Commission is having this particular brand of pajamas independently tested to ensure that they comply with the relevant product safety standards," she said.
Earlier 115,000 Mattel toys made in China were recalled in New Zealand because of hazards from powerful magnets and lead paint.
Chinese exports have been under scrutiny, especially in the U.S., China's most important export market. Regulators have turned up tainted pet-food ingredients, seafood and toothpaste with potentially dangerous chemicals and drugs.