New TSA Uniforms Trigger a Rash of Complaints

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 5, 2009; 5:44 PM

The new blue uniforms issued to Transportation Security Administration officers at hundreds of airports nationwide may have a snazzy look, but they have become a major irritant for some of those employees.

The new uniforms are causing rashes and other irritations among transportation security officers who screen passengers at airports, according to the union representing the workers.

"We're hearing from hundreds of TSOs that this is an issue," said Emily Ryan, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees. Most of the complaints have been for skin rashes, but they have also included runny or bloody noses, lightheadeness, red eyes, and swollen and cracked lips, union officials say.

The union blames formaldehyde, which is a chemical byproduct of the permanent-press finish applied by clothing manufacturers to prevent mildew and stains.

A spokesman for TSA said that the problem is not serious or widespread, and that few workers have complained. The agency said that tests done on the uniforms have not found unacceptable levels of formaldehyde or any other chemical.

"So far, a handful of officers have reported minor irritations," said Christopher White, a TSA spokesman.

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