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The woman I was training with over the weekend was informed by a local midwife that regular paper towels are treated with formaldehyde which they give off a small amount of on contact. Some brands that don't have formaldehyde include Seventh Generation, Earth Friendly Products and Green Forest
Anyone heard about this or know what other brands don't contain it?
Do you have any research on the safety of eating off paper towels??
There are two chemicals of concern in paper towels. The first is formaldehyde, which is used for wet strength of the paper, and the other is dioxin, which may be present from the bleaching of the paper.
Dioxin is an extremely toxic chemical and has been found to leach into foods such as milk from bleached paper cartons. Formaldehyde is a volatile chemical that can be released into the air and absorbed by other materials.
I couldn't find any research that shows how much dioxin or formaldehyde is emitted from paper towels or absorbed by food that has been sitting on them for a few minutes. My opinion is that if the food is simply sitting on the towel for a few minutes, it is probably absorbing very little of either chemical. But my best recommendation would be to use a plate instead.
If you are going to use paper towels, it's better to use the unbleached brown towels. There is more info on choosing paper towels in Green Seal's Choose Green Report on Bathroom Tissue and Paper Towels.
According to a Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet on Formaldehyde, "formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of grocery bags, paper cups and plates, waxed paper, facial tissues, napkins, paper towels, and sanitary napkins," so yes, what I said about paper towels applies to all these other products as well.