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Research Indicates Reusable Towels Safe for Use

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March 7, 2013—Following a report from environmental engineering firm ARCADIS confirming the safety of reusable shop towels, the Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) has verified that the reusable towels do not harm shop workers.

A health risk assessment of laundered reusable shop towels conducted in April 2012 by ARCADIS indicated that using the towels creates no health hazards. Findings indicated that metals that remained on shop towels after they were laundered did not transfer to the hands of workers who used shop towels.

These results were independently verified and have been submitted for peer review for publication in industrial hygienic scholarly journals, according to TRSA President & CEO Joseph Ricci.

The ARCADIS research measured metal traces in laundered towels and increased the scope of testing to include leachability tests, using “synthetic sweat” to estimate residual elements that could be freed during towel use.

“Reusable cloth shop towels have been used by millions of workers for more than 100 years with no indications that clean shop towels have any impact on worker health,” said Ricci. “By measuring leachate, and not simply relying on a modeling format, ARCADIS realistically portrayed the minuscule amount of metals that shop towel users are exposed to, reaffirming our confidence there is absolutely no risk to users."

A previous study on shop towels conducted by Gradient suggested that there’s increased risk associated with the chemicals that reside in the shop towels after they’ve been laundered.

“As the trade association representing facilities that process laundered reusable shop towels, we felt we had an industry responsibility to conduct a health assessment to quantify if any real health risk existed,” Ricci said. “This study reconfirms decades of experience, that laundered reusable shop towels are not only safe but are the most efficient, cost-effective and sustainable option.”

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