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Toxic Textiles

Posted by John on October 9th, 2008

From The Philadelphia Inquirer: Jeanine Burgin’s back started to itch in April. Then came red patches, blisters and a burning sensation.

Skin-care products only seemed to make things worse. She was in and out of hospitals, where doctors tried cortisone and other treatments – all to no avail.

“It was a mystery,” says Burgin, 69, who lives outside Paris.

Turns out the mystery was right inside her house: her new upholstered armchair.

Scientists at Philadelphia University are finding harmful levels of formaldehyde in clothing and furniture. The levels of formaldehyde would violate safety standards in Japan, but we have no such standards in the U.S.

They’ve also found high levels of dimethyl fumarate in furniture; this powdery chemical is used to prevent mold growth – but it can also cause severe allergic reactions like Jeanine Burgin’s burning red patches.

In children’s car seats, the researchers found high amounts of flame retardants which are suspected to disrupt growth and hormone function.

Some lawmakers are pushing for regulation of such dangerous chemicals. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey recently introduced legislation to regulate formaldehyde in clothing.

“You don’t often think about a threat being so proximate when it comes to something like clothing,” he says. “Especially for children.”

Formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen that can cause allergic reactions and irritate the eyes and respiratory tract. It’s present in many synthetic fabrics such as permanent press clothing.

Some furniture made in China has been known to cause allergic dermatitis among sensitive individuals because of formaldehyde content.

dust mite beddingUnfortunately for allergy sufferers, dust mite resistant bedding often emits formaldehyde, too. To avoid any unforeseen allergic reactions, choose natural dust mite bedding.

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