Commissioned by Kimberly-Clark Professional, Gradient researchers analyzed data from laundered shop towels submitted by 26 North American companies across various manufacturing industries. The towels were submitted to an independent lab for testing. Gradient found significantly higher levels of contamination than in the similarly designed 2003 study.
More heavy metals exceed health-based exposure criteria: A worker using a typical number of laundered shop towels a day (12) may be exposed to levels of antimony, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, and molybdenum that are higher than health-based guidelines set by regulatory agencies.
Tested towels are dirtier: The concentrations of six metals—aluminum, barium, calcium, copper, magnesium, and sodium—were found to be significantly higher than towels tested in the original 2003 Gradient study.
More metals detected more often: A wide variety of heavy metals were commonly found on the shop towels tested. Of the 29 metals studied, 26 were found on more than 90 percent of the towels tested.
It is unlikely that metals found in the tested towels could come from a single industry source. For instance, beryllium is not commonly used in manufacturing sites, but was present in a number of the towels. Launderers combine towels from multiple industries before washing, which may contribute to this finding.
The new report, “Evaluation of Potential Exposure to Metals in Laundered Shop Towels,” is available at www.thedirtonshoptowels.com.
Gradient is an environmental and risk science consulting firm with nationally recognized specialties in toxicology, epidemiology, risk assessment, product safety, contaminant fate and transport and environmental chemistry. It assists national and global clients in resolving their complex problems relating to chemicals in the environment, in the workplace, and in consumer products. Gradient’s principals and senior scientists are nationally recognized experts and active contributors to the promotion of sound science. For more information, go to www.gradientcorp.com.