Jim Williams CHICAGO (CBS)
If your next flight puts you in the path of an irritated TSA worker, cut them a little slack. There have been many reports from agents stating they are suffering severe skin problems caused by their uniforms.
Some 43,000 workers nationwide wear the blue outfits every day. CBS 2's Jim Williams explains why the uniforms are getting a bad rap.
TSA workers have a big responsibility to keep the nation's transportation system safe. However, some TSA workers say that job is now uncomfortable because of the uniforms they started wearing last summer.
Workers complain the uniforms have made them lightheaded and have given them skin rashes and redness around the eyes.
The uniforms come from two countries - Mexico and Honduras. TSA workers told CBS 2 off camera, the ones from Honduras are causing the problems.
The problems they believe are linked to formaldehyde in the uniforms.
It's supposed to prevent mildew and help clothing stay wrinkle-free.
Northwestern Hospital dermatologist Peter Lio says he's treated patients with ailments that are caused by formaldehyde.
"If they've used a very high level of formaldehyde in the clothing, even if you're not allergic to it, you can actually have what we call an irritant reaction. It makes you feel itchy, rashy, you're flushing. You might have some itchy eyes and just feel in general unpleasant," Lio said.
In a written statement, TSA spokesman Jonathan Allen says the uniforms were sent to an "independent, third-party laboratory for testing. Each and every uniform was found to be well under acceptable limits for a number of substances known to cause irritation, including formaldehyde."
Allen went to on the say there have been fewer complaints about the new uniforms than about the old white shirts.
Still, the TSA is offering those suffering workers all cotton replacements.
Dr. Lio recommends workers who don't go back to the old white shirts to wash the blue uniforms twice with a hypoallergenic detergent without using a fabric softener.