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New Zealand probes dangerous chemicals in Chinese clothing

WELLINGTON, Aug 20, 2007 (AFP) - The New Zealand government Monday launched an investigation into allegations that clothes imported from China contained dangerous levels of the chemical formaldehyde.

Scientists working for the Target television consumer watchdog programme found levels of formaldehyde in woollen and cotton clothes of up to 900 times the level believed to cause harm.

Ministry of Consumer Affairs general manager Liz MacPherson said the department had launched an investigation into the problem.

"We're taking it very seriously," she told Radio New Zealand. "We're taking some urgent action to investigate it, which will involve undertaking some sample testing of products from across the market.

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Formaldehyde is used to give clothes a permanent press appearance.

International research has showed that exposure to formaldehyde in concentrations of 20 parts per million (ppm) can cause skin irritations, respiratory problems and cancer, the television programme said.

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Target producer Simon Rod said government scientists tested a variety of new children's and adult's clothes and the levels were so astonishingly high they thought they had made a mistake.

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"Our results w

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