To address emerging confusion due to the disposable wiper industry’s most recent attack on the hygiene of clean shop towels, Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) member companies are explaining to users of these laundered products the frivolity of claims that these goods contain trace amounts of ingestible metals.

TRSA has made the case against the validity of the International Nonwovens & Disposables Association (INDA) analysis publicized July 11, noting that INDA researchers said they examined only 10 towels to reach their conclusions and they produced no evidence of any harm from use of these items. INDA insinuated that metals could migrate from towels to users’ hands but offered no evidence that any such transfer occurs.

These points are included in a statement available from TRSA that notes the lack of substantiation of claims in the new INDA document, “Evaluation of Potential Exposure to Metals in Laundered Shop Towels.” The analysis does not prove the presence of metals in washed shop towels, TRSA noted, and if any were present, they could not escape because laundering would bind them to towel fibers.

“The findings assume that workers wipe their lips with a laundered shop towel twice a day,” observed TRSA President Joseph Ricci. “Such a baseless assumption serves no purpose other than to strike fear and create doubt.” Even INDA’s researchers noted their lack of methodology for evaluating exposure to metals from towels.

Shop towel users must also “read between the lines” to grasp the insignificance of the INDA findings, Ricci added. “This is not a human health study. It does not measure the presence of metals from shop towels on human skin. It was not commissioned by any government agency or organization concerned about injuries or illnesses. It was done by disposable paper wiper marketers to put their product in a positive light by discrediting use of reusable textiles.” Also, the study was self-published by INDA, not a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Similar poorly grounded assertions have failed in the past to reduce the use of cloth shop towels, he noted, because of the cleanliness and economy of commercial laundry, a service grounded in natural resource conservation and sustainability. TRSA member facilities' high-capacity, high-speed laundry equipment achieves tremendous efficiencies in the use of utilities and chemistry.

“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 must attempt to challenge reusables instead,” Ricci said.

Most Americans benefit from the cleanliness and safety provided by the textile services industry—through its laundering and delivery of reusable linens, uniforms, towels, mats and other products for the healthcare, hospitality and industrial/manufacturing sectors.