Consumers should be more concerned with the levels of formaldehyde in food and drink than in clothes, the Soil and Health Association of New Zealand says.
The Consumer Affairs Ministry has launched an investigation after scientists from TV3′s Target consumer watchdog programme found dangerous levels of formaldehyde in woollen and cotton clothes imported from China.
Exposure to formaldehyde can cause skin irritations, respiratory problems and cancer.
Soil and Health spokesman Steffan Browning said formaldehyde produced in children’s bodies as a by product of the aspartame, a low energy sweetener in diet drinks, chewing gum, cereals and many processed foods, was likely to be an even greater health hazard than that in clothing.
Aspartame had been linked to many health symptoms, including depression, insomnia, migraines, rashes, chronic fatigue and personality changes, Mr Browning said.
Soil and Health sought its immediate removal from schools, he said.
“Soil and Health is also calling as a first step for school boards to pull aspartame from school canteens and vending machines for 60 days to test for behavioural and health improvements in pupils.”
Recently concerns were raised about aspartame after it was blamed for the health problems suffered by Wellington woman Abigail Cormack.
Ms Cormack thought she was dying after a four-pack-a-day chewing gum habit led to crippling muscle cramps, tingling in her hands and feet, heart palpitations and anxiety attacks.
She made a complete recovery when she stopped chewing aspartame-sweetened gum.
However, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) said concerns were not justified and aspartame was safe.
An adult would have to consume 14 cans of a sugar-free drink every day of their lives before possibly showing any ill-effects, NZFSA’s deputy chief executive Sandra Daly said.