A new TRSA position paper explains how the recent Gradient Corp. study funded by disposable wiper marketers deceives readers of this research report into believing reusable shop towel users are at risk for ingesting metal residues from such clean textile products. Attacks on Laundered Shop Towels: Why Now? What’s Next? describes the research’s outlandish assumptions that create an insufficient basis for concluding that the research proves workers are at risk.
The study gives no explanation for how residual chemicals separate from towel fibers when a worker uses a shop towel. It’s widely acknowledged that even the most excessive amount of sweat, water or any liquid covering a worker’s skin that contacts a shop towel would not be enough to free any residual substances.
In addition, no evidence is provided that anyone has ever absorbed any metals from a clean shop towel. The research assumes that such absorption occurs because of other unwanted chemical intakes, such as pesticides on floors. But there’s no mention of any other suspicion besides the researchers’ theory that such ingestion takes place.
The paper also notes that no effort has been made (or at least none has apparently succeeded) to publish this research in a peer-reviewed journal. Even the disposable wiper industry’s journal hasn’t printed it; their association has only publicized the findings on its website. If the study has raised a viable concern, presumably it would attract the attention of public health professionals.
The report contends that workers ingest metals at thousands of times their safe exposure levels. TRSA dismisses this as nothing more than sensationalism, because there is no proof of any exposure and the study estimates maximum exposures without any analysis of behaviors in industrial work settings or reference to such.
Promotional material for the research indicates its calculations hinge on a shop towel user touching his/her mouth or other “opening” 16 times per hour. The origin of this statistic is not clear from the references cited in the study. It appears to be based on the most popular research on face-touching: observation of individuals working alone in a clean environment as opposed to a typical shop towel user’s workplace, which requires frequent contact with co-workers and often customers.
About TRSA and the Textile Services Industry
Based in Alexandria, Va., TRSA represents the $16-billion textile services industry that employs nearly 200,000 people at more than 2,000 facilities nationwide. These companies provide laundered textiles and other products and services that help businesses project a clean and attractive public image. The industry reaches every major business and industrial region, Congressional district and city in the country. Most Americans benefit at least once a week from the cleanliness and safety provided by the industry—through its laundering and delivery of reusable linens, uniforms, towels, mats and other products for the healthcare, hospitality and industrial/manufacturing sectors. TRSA member companies’ services minimize environmental impacts on air, water and solid waste disposal while reducing costs for millions of customers.