NEW Zealand launched an investigation into Chinese garment imports Monday after children’s clothes from China were found to contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde, officials said.
The government ordered the probe 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 the government agency AgriQuality 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 chemical preservative that gives a permanent press effect to clothes and is also used 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.
Prime Minister Helen Clark told reporters New Zealand has”the ability to ban products outright where they don’t meet appropriate standards.’’ ”These aren’t country-specific standards, they are universal standards and if companies don’t meet them their goods don’t stay here,’’ she said when asked what remedies could be taken over the clothing imports. ”Target’’ production manager Juanita Dobson said the garments tested were ”randomly selected items’’ that are ”readily available from common outlets around New Zealand.