What causes childhood eczema?

by Linda Sones on July 8, 2007

in EcoFashion, EcoKids

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I have recently been wondering if the increased incidence of childhood eczema could possibly be linked to clothing and bedding used. Natural untreated fibres used in the manufacture of clothing cause almost no skin problems. We know that conventionally grown cotton is very chemically intensively farmed and amongst many other potential side effects skin damage is mentioned. There is also much speculation about the harmful effects of formaldehyde which is used in textile finishing. It is widely accepted to be carcinogenic in some circumstances. Symptoms associated with formaldehyde exposure include headaches, respiratory problems, coughing and watery eyes. It can also aggravate asthma attacks. Frequent skin contact in clothing which has been treated can cause hyper sensitivity which leads to the development of contact dermatitis. Formaldehyde is applied during the manufacturing process in such a way that it becomes a permanent part of the fibre. Although repeated washings can lower the levels of formaldehyde it continues to be released for the lifetime of the fabric. It might be best therefore to avoid these finishes completely. Although manufacturers are not required to state whether they have used formaldehyde look for items that are labelled “no iron”, “shrink proof”, “stretch proof”, “permanently pressed” or “crease resistant”. As formaldehyde is used to keep fabrics wrinkle free these terms are indicative that it may have been used.

As a baby’s skin is so much thinner than an adult’s, and their immune system is still developing, it may be that they are at increased risk from the fumes. It is recommended that eczema sufferers avoid synthetic materials and wool, and wear cotton next to the skin. Perhaps it would be better to wear organic cotton, which has been produced without chemical additives.

While researching this article on the internet, I was interested to see that there are numerous people suggesting that their cotton is produced without formaldehyde, which would seem to indicate that the problems associated with it have been recognized. Certainly organic cotton manufacturers are recognizing the need to use environmentally responsible dyes which are free from banned amines, formaldehyde, heavy metals and other harmful additives. This can only be of benefit to babies, children and adults. We are now far more conscious of what we eat and there is a huge uptake in organic food, but talking about organic cotton and its benefits often elicits a quizzical response.

Grandmother and former nurse Linda Sones sells organic cotton bedding and natural, organic baby toiletries online at SonesUK.

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