Nurses in several hospitals across Wales and Scotland have reported skin rashes due to allergic reaction to the fabric of their uniforms, which contain potentially carcinogenic formaldehyde.
A leading toxin expert from Government's Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances until recently, Gwynne Lyons, said that the allergic reaction was caused due to formaldehyde resin, used to make the tunics crease-resistant.
"But there is also a bigger picture, in that many experts consider that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen when inhaled over time. Therefore, whenever possible, it is high time that safer substances were used instead of formaldehyde," The Independent quoted Dr Lyons, director of the Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring Trust, as saying.
Clothes manufacturers use the chemical in clothes to prevent creasing and mildew during transit. The Health and Safety Executive warn workers that it can cause skin, eye, and nose and throat irritation. Long-term exposure to high levels has been linked with nasal and lung cancer.
Alternative uniforms are being made available to nurses in Wales while the problem is investigated.