Chinese-made blankets found to contain high levels of formaldehyde have been recalled across Australia and New Zealand, the distributor said yesterday.
The voluntary recall by Australia-based Charles Parsons came two days after the New Zealand government launched an urgent investigation after scientists found dangerous levels of formaldehyde in woolen and cotton clothes made in China.
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.
Charles Parsons declined to release the total number of blankets involved, but spokesman Mark Bilton said "there's a lot" in Australia and about 800 in New Zealand.
Tests had shown the formaldehyde level in the "Superlux" label blankets was "above the European and US standards. There are no standards in Australia and New Zealand so it's a voluntary recall," he said.
Independent tests had revealed the chemical's content was "less" than 1,500 parts per million, but "we've decided not to get into those details," Bilton said.
New Zealand government research agency AgResearch said it was swamped by clothing companies wanting tests on Chinese imports. Scientists testing clothes for TV3's Target consumer watchdog program discovered formaldehyde concentrations up to 900 times above the safe level.
Many companies had complained that they had no information about what constitutes safe levels of formaldehyde, said Lorraine Greer, AgResearch's textiles division testing laboratory manager.
The New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs said yesterday it would start a program to test for formaldehyde in clothes next week as part of its probe, while acknowledging the country had no standard for formaldehyde levels in textiles -- a concern of retailers.
The blanket recall comes after New Zealand cut-price retailer The Warehouse issued a recall of children's pajamas made in China last weekend after two children were burned when their flannelette pajamas caught fire.
Separately, a spokeswoman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc in the US said on Tuesday that tests of two Chinese brands of dog treats sold at Wal-Mart stores found traces of melamine, a chemical agent that led to another massive pet food recall in March.
Wal-Mart quietly stopped selling Chicken Jerky Strips from Import-Pingyang Pet Product Co and Chicken Jerky from Shanghai Bestro Trading last month, after customers said the products sickened their pets. Company spokeswoman Deisha Galberth said 17 sets of tests done on the products found melamine, a contaminant that's a byproduct of several pesticides.
"There were very small amounts of melamine found," Galberth said. "The amounts were so small the laboratory recommended more testing."
More than 150 brands of pet food were recalled earlier this year after US inspectors said wheat gluten from China that was used to make the food was tainted with melamine. An unknown number of dogs and cats died.
Meanwhile, China said yesterday it had discovered many safety problems with soybeans imported from the US, urging US authorities to deal with the problem.
"Inspection and quarantine units in various areas have discovered a large number of quality and safety problems with imports of US soybeans," the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said.