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Household product labelling insufficient for allergy sufferers

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23rd Oct 2012
Niamh Mullen   all articles by this author

INGREDIENT labelling of household products in Australia is inadequate, making it difficult for sensitised people to avoid exposure to allergens, dermatologists say.

A review of data from 6845 patients patch-tested in Sydney and Melbourne between 1993 and 2006 found the most common preservative allergen was formaldehyde (4.6%).

The other common allergens were Euxyl K400 (3.3%), quaternium-15 (2.9%), diazolidinyl urea (2.4%), and methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (2.3%) – all found in common cosmetic, personal care and household products.

But while cosmetics and therapeutic goods must list all ingredients, the same rules do not apply to household products, “thus preventing sensitised individuals from properly assessing their exposure”, according to the authors from the Skin and Cancer Foundation and the Dermatology Department at Liverpool Hospital.

Formaldehyde can be used to a maximum concentration of 0.2% in cosmetics, 0.1% in oral hygiene products, 5% in nail hardeners and 0.005% in aerosols sprays. It is also a schedule 2 medicine, where there is no restriction on the concentration, allowing pathologists and embalming industries to use it to preserve tissue.

However the researchers said doctors in Australia still used it occasionally as a topical treatment for verruca vulgaris in concentrations up to 35%.

“Using such high concentrations repeatedly on inflamed skin could cause formaldehyde sensitisation and such a practice is to be discouraged,” they wrote.

The research also showed the rate of chloroacetamide allergy was higher than reported in Europe at 2.1%. An EU report on cases, including Australian data, found links to use of sorbolene lotion, roll-on deodorant, wall paint, leather shoes and anti-wrinkle serum.

The authors said Australian doctors often recommended sorbolene products to patients with eczema.

“Although the chloroacetamide concentration used is low (0.07%), it may be sufficient to cause sensitisation in compromised skin, especially when used repeatedly.”

Australasian J of Dermatology 2012; online 22 Oct

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