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Study finds used shop towels pose no health risk

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July 6, 2012—A health risk assessment of used shop towels shows that the towels do not create a health hazard, according to a news release_notes.

The assessment was completed by international environmental engineering firm ARCADIS. The firm’s findings counter speculation that laundered reusable shop towels are dangerous for workers who handle them. The firm measured metal traces in used towels and included leachability tests using synthetic sweat to measure residual elements that could be freed when the towels are used. ARCADIS also considered the amounts of each metal a worker could be exposed to by including factors such as skin contact and hours worked. They assessed the potential non-cancer and cancer hazards associated with these exposures.

From this research, the firm found zero detectable risk from the transfer of these metals, or a level that would be considered insignificant when compared with health-conservative values that the EPA has established, according to the news release.

Textile services industry advocacy organization TRSA plans to expand the research to further verify that the towels don’t harm workers, according to the release.

“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 Joseph Ricci, TRSA president and CEO. “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. We look forward to gathering more independent data using this comprehensive protocol to increase confidence that clean reusable textiles pose no health risks."

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