New Zealand launched an investigation into Chinese garment imports yesterday after children's clothes from China were found to contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde, officials said.
The government ordered the probe after scientists testing clothes for TV3's Target watchdog program discovered formaldehyde concentrations up to 900 times above the safe level in woolen and cotton clothes from China.
Target producer Simon Roy said scientists from the government agency AgriQuality tested a variety of new children's and adult's clothes and the results were so astounding they thought they had made a mistake.
"Our results were shocking, ranging from 230ppm [parts per million] to 18,000ppm," he said. "Some of the clothes tested have a reading of 900 times the level that actually causes harm."
Formaldehyde -- a chemical preservative that gives a permanent press effect to clothes and is also used as an embalming fluid -- can cause problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs general manager Liz MacPherson said it had launched an investigation into the nature and size of the problem.
"We're taking some urgent action to investigate it ... We're taking it very seriously," she told National Radio.
Target production manager Juanita Dobson said the garments tested were "randomly selected items" that are "readily available from common outlets around New Zealand."
Meanwhile, Chinese state TV has launched a weeklong series of programs dedicated to defending the country's reputation as a safe maker of global goods, pushing forward its campaign to woo back international trust.
The first program aired on Sunday on China Central TV's economic channel and featured Li Changjiang (李長江), head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quar-antine criticizing the recent furor over the quality of exports as "demonizing China's products."
"I'm here to tell you: have faith in made-in-China," he said.