Rebuttal: Textile Group Says Shop Rag Study Launders Results

TRSA contends the science behind research results released this week is insufficient and mainly a transparent effort to push disposable paper industrial wipers as substitutes for reusable cloth shop towels.

The Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) today began alerting industrial and health care users of textile services that marketers of disposable products are intensifying "frivolous claims" about the hygiene of cloth reusable goods. TRSA is countering these statements, but the association warns that all businesses that manufacture, launder, or deploy laundered textiles must defend against these campaigns challenging the cleanliness and economy of commercial laundry.

On Monday, the Cambridge, Mass.-based environmental consulting firm Gradient released results of a study commissioned by Kimberly-Clark Professional finding that the presence of heavy metals in shop towels that have supposedly been washed clean could result in worker exposures that exceed federal guidelines. The study, “Evaluation of Potential Exposure to Metals in Laundered Shop Towels,” builds upon an earlier analysis published in 2003 and concludes that, even after commercial laundering, the towels studied retain elevated levels of metals. Additionally, Gradient said, the tested shop towels may unexpectedly introduce new metals that are not otherwise in a facility.

TRSA contends the science behind the research is insufficient and mainly a transparent effort to push disposable paper industrial wipers as substitutes for reusable cloth shop towels.

"The disposable products industry strategy is simply to use baseless assumptions to strike fear and create doubt among textile services customers and leverage self-funded research to encourage increased regulation," said TRSA in a July 14 press release.

Kevin D. Schwalb, TRSA government affairs director, said, “Hundreds of millions of shop towels have been used by millions of employees for more than 100 years and we have never heard of any health issues related to their use.”

TRSA President Joseph Ricci added that campaigns that attack reusables may be groundless, but they still garner attention and prompt misconceptions. “The hygienic and economic benefits of using laundered goods have long been realized by manufacturing and service industries but have rarely been publicized. Marketers of disposables cannot deliver these same attributes so they are determined to spend whatever money is necessary to discredit reusables instead.

“Their recent campaigns are a wake-up call to all of us who can attest to how commercial laundries provide businesses with optimal just-in-time inventories of clean reusable textiles such as uniforms, linens and towels at a fair price. Now more than ever, we need our own research and increased resources to tell our own positive stories.”

He urged commercial laundry customers to be especially attentive and responsive to efforts to document the quality and economy of the reusable textile services they have received.

“Disposables manufacturers and distributors are united in their efforts to fund research and government outreach to erode our industry’s competitive edge,” said Ricci, “To defend ourselves and hold onto all of our business, textile services operators best do the same."

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