Chemical in Furniture Linked to Skin Rashes
Doctors Blame Rashes on Chemical Used to Prevent Mold in Furniture Shipments
March 5, 2010 (Miami Beach, Fla.) -- Your new sofa may be the last thing you
suspect is causing that red rash on the back of your legs, but it could be the
Doctors say a chemical added into furniture shipments from China to prevent
the growth of mold has been linked to severe rashes.
The chemical, dimethylfumate (DMF), can penetrate the fabric and
subsequently clothing when a person sits on the furniture, says Joseph F.
Fowler Jr., MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of
DMF is also used in the shipping of some clothing and shoes, Fowler says.
And some people are very allergic to the preservative, he tells
When they come into contact with DMF, susceptible individuals develop
contact dermatitis, a rash that can occur anywhere on the body. Irritated skin
becomes dry and chapped and eventually red, scaly, and inflamed.
At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, Fowler
described what he called "an epidemic of Chinese sofa and chair
Fowler said that the first five cases were reported in Europe in 2008.
"Since then, there have been a good 1,000 cases in Europe, maybe more," he
says. Cases have also been reported in Canada.
In the U.S., there have been no published reports, although Fowler says he
treated one man who developed contact dermatitis of the foot from a shoe that
was contaminated with the chemical. The rash went away after the patient
disposed of the offending footwear, he says.
Jenny J. Kim, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology at the University
of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, tells WebMD that
Fowler's report is the first she has heard of the allergen.
Kim says she will start asking patients in whom she can't find a cause of
rash about recent furniture purchases. "I'm going to start looking for [DMF
allergies]," she says.
Fowler says DMF is "put into little packets, or sachets, that are then put
in with furniture, clothing, and shoes to prevent mold during shipping."
As more U.S. doctors hear about DMF-contaminated furniture and clothing,
"we'll be hearing about a lot more of these cases," he says.