Scientific Journal Publishes TRSA Shop Towel Study

Peer-Reviewed Publication Validates Worker Safety

In its October 2014 issue, the Journal of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology published an independent study that found workers who routinely use laundered shop towels had no increased health risk above regulatory levels of concern. The publication is the official journal of the International Society for Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.

The study was conducted by Arcadis U.S., Inc., a leading global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm. The study measured heavy metal exposures from laundered shop towels. The study sampled laundered shop towels from 10 laundering facilities across the country. Shop towels are reusable, natural fiber cloths used as rags in various workplaces for wiping engines, mechanical parts, work surfaces and other equipment.

TRSA, a leading global textile services trade association, commissioned the study to rebut research suggesting laundered shop towels contained concentrations of metals that exceed established regulatory toxicity criteria.

“We’re honored to have the methodical research Arcadis conducted on shop towel safety to be recognized and published in a respected science journal such as Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology,” said TRSA President and CEO Joseph Ricci. “The validation that comes with publication in this esteemed peer-reviewed journal validates TRSAs long held position that properly laundered shop towels do not pose significant health risks to workers.”

Twenty-seven metals were evaluated in the TRSA study with hazard indices (HI) calculated for three exposure pathways: towel-to-hand and subsequent hand-to-food or hand-to-mouth transfers. In each instance, the highest HIs for all metals were at least 10 times lower than the regulatory level of concern.

While the TRSA study confirmed previous reports of low, but measurable levels (i.e., part-per-million) concentrations of several heavy metals in reusable shop towels, these trace residues do not pose a threat to worker health based on minimal regulatory health standards.