Last November, I wrote about a strange little white bump on my back. I came to the conclusion that I have a spandex allergy. Since the first little white bump and itching started, I have had numerous bouts of hives and dermatitis. I have been learning a lot about textile and clothing allergies. The stuff I found out is pretty scary. Did you know that they put formaldehyde in fabric used to make clothes with? I didn’t believe that when I first read it.
They say that people with autoimmune problems are more susceptible to getting allergies – that makes sense because an allergy is also an immune response to the substance you are allergic to. People with allergies also have a lower risk of getting cancer (other than bladder cancer), so I guess there is at least one positive in having allergies!
The dermatitis that I had turned out to be nummular dermatitis. Nummular means coin shaped. One of the causes can be a formaldehyde allergy. Medscape has a good article on formaldehyde allergy that you can here (you have to subscribe to Medscape, which is free, before you can read the article). I came across this article after I read that Japan has the lowest levels of formaldehyde in their clothing and the US allows the most. They have several companies listed in Table 4 of that article that meet Japanese clothing standards.
One frustrating thing with clothing allergies is that labels don’t have to contain everything that is in the fabric. Chances are if you have a pair of sweat pants, they claim to be 100% cotton but they have elastic in – elastic is not made from cotton. Nor do you see labels that say “formaldehyde” or “latex” (which is also common in clothing) on them.
I bought dye free detergents and am slowly going thru all my clothes and re-washing everything. At first I was trying to wear a few things that I knew were safe. Actually, the Medscape article linked above says to do that on Table 5, which contains a list of safe clothes. One problem is their safe list includes spandex, and if you have a spandex allergy, that is obviously not a safe item for you. I didn’t want to put things that I washed back into my closet and dressers until I took the other stuff out, so I was living out of a laundry basket for a few weeks. I finally started going thru clothes and have made a big dent in my closet and am done with everything in my dressers. Most of what is left to do in my closet is stuff that needs ironed and I hate to iron so … I have the stuff in my closet sorted between needs washed, safe and “iffy” clothes. I have one dresser drawer with “iffy” clothes.
Apparently things that are 100% cotton or 100% polyester should be safe, but not things that are a cotton/polyester blend. I had a bunch of tops that were part cotton and part polyester. I decided I am going to try those before just giving them away. I started a list of things that are giving me problems and will wear it at least twice before it gets tossed.
I gave away everything that had spandex in. It surprised me how many things had spandex in. I had a bunch of turtle necks that I normally would wear in the winter under sweaters or sweatshirts and almost all of those had spandex in. I have a neighbor that hasn’t worked for awhile and her unemployment ran out so I asked her if she wanted anything and she did.
According to the Medscape list, Liz Claiborne clothing should have low amounts of formaldehyde. I wore a Liz shirt the other day that is 100% cotton but it made me itchy. I don’t even think I had it on for an hour before taking it off and I had another shirt on underneath it.
For now, it is trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t.