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December 1962

Free Formaldehyde in Textiles and Paper: Clinical Significance

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Dermatology of the New York University School of Medicine and the Skin and Cancer Unit of University Hospital.

Arch Dermatol. 1962;86(6):753-756. doi:10.1001/archderm.1962.01590120051008

Instances of contact dermatitis from free formaldehyde in textiles continue to be reported from abroad, especially from the Scandinavian countries.1-3 In the United States, a single report of dermatitis due to formaldehyde in paper has appeared.4 Various formaldehyde resins are widely used for impregnating certain textiles in order to make them crease-resistant, crush-resistant, shrink-resistant, water-repellant, etc. Similarly formaldehyde compounds are used to add "wet strength" to paper. Such paper includes certain facial tissues and paper towels.

The usual principle for resin treatment is the impregnation of the textile in a bath consisting of a resin precondensate and a catalyst. Drying and curing at a high temperature then takes place. This is followed by washing to remove the catalyst and uncondensed resin and excess free formaldehyde. The result of this process is the formation within the textile fiber of a thermosetting resin which makes the fiber crease-resistant, etc. and,