July 10, 2012
An initial health risk assessment of laundered, reusable shop towels by the international environmental engineering firm Arcadis indicates that using laundered, reusable shop towels creates no health hazard. Arcadis' risk assessment indicates that metals that remain on shop towels after laundering are not readily transferred to the hands of workers who use them.
The Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA), Alexandria, Va., plans to expand the research beyond the initial sample of shop towels from 10 locations to verify conclusive evidence further.
Arcadis 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 when they are used. From this leachate, the firm determined the amounts of each metal a worker might be exposed to based on factors including skin contact and hours worked. The potential noncancer and cancer hazards associated with such exposures were assessed.
This independent research found either zero detectable risk from the transfer of these metals or a level that would be considered insignificant by comparison to health-conservative values established by the EPA.
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