Why you should always wash your child’s new clothes

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An Australian mum shares a nasty experience that happened to her little boy when he came into contact with an unwashed item of new clothing.

If you check the label of a new item of clothing you buy for your child, you’ll probably see this little message: ‘wash before wearing’.

But how many of you actually do this? If you don’t, then this mum’s story should act as an eye-opener and cautionary tale to always wash your little one’s new clothes before dressing him or her in them.

We recently read about Australian mum Samantha Maree Spencer, who took her almost two-year-old little boy to the Australian store Big W for some shopping. While there, she got her little boy to try on a jumper to see it it fit him.

But when they got home, her little boy Parker started scratching his face. Samantha reportedly thought he was just teething. However, after going to bed he woke up crying and screaming. His face was red and swollen and he had to be rushed to hospital.

Chemical reaction

After examining little Parker, doctors explained to Samantha that they believed her little boy has a nasty reaction to the chemical residue in the jumper he tried on earlier that day.

They told her it was the only likely explanation. Parker’s rash only went down the next day in the morning, after he stayed the night at hospital.

The little boy has made a full recovery, luckily, and his mummy says the whole episode was an important lesson to her to always wash new clothing.

Chemicals and clothes

It looks like chemicals lurk everywhere, even in the clothing we wear. These substances are used in the treatment process of clothes.

“Exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of allergic dermatitis, but more severe health effect for humans as well as the environment could possibly be related to these chemicals. Some of them are suspected or proved carcinogens and some have aquatic toxicity,” says Giovanna Luongo, PhD in Analytical Chemistry at Stockholm University.

Here are some of the most common chemicals used to treat clothing, according to Choice:

  • Chromium VI: used on leather and new wool and may cause or make worse contact dermatitis.
  • DMF: this is used to prevent mould and moisture in leather goods and may cause chronic eczema.
  • phthalates: used in PVC for shoes and rainwear. These are suspected of being carcinogenic and may disturb the hormone system.
  • alkphenols: used for textile and leather production and have a negative impact on the human endocrine system. They are also environmentally toxic.
  • dispersion dyes: these may cause allergy and rashes.

Other chemicals include:

  • azo dyes, often used in the colouring process for textiles and leather products. Recently it has been recognised that some azo colouring agents may form amines (breakdown products) that may have carcinogenic and mutagenic (changing genetic material) properties. These are on the EU REACH restricted list.
  • chlorinated phenols (PCP, TeCP, TriCP) used in the processing of textiles. Contact with PCP can irritate the skin, eyes and mouth. Long-term exposure to low levels can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, blood and nervous system. Exposure to PCP is also associated with carcinogenic, renal and neurological effects.
  • formaldehyde which is used to “finish” fabric. Exposure to low levels irritates the eyes, nose, throat and can cause allergies affecting the skin and lungs. Higher exposure can cause throat spasms and build-up of fluid in the lungs. It is classified as a potential carcinogen.

Mums and dads, there’s a simple way to prevent the repercussions of these chemicals on new clothes irritating your baby’s tender skin: wash the clothes at least once before dressing your child in them.

More points for consideration include:

  • Purchase gently-used clothing whenever possible. These clothes have been washed at least once, thus removing harmful chemicals.
  • Avoid buying low quality clothes. It’s likely that the cheaper they are, the lower are the standards of quality control.
  • If possible, go for clothes that have been coloured with organic dyes. A bit of research about the brand will give you some insight on this.
  • If you get an overwhelmingly strong smell from an item of clothing you wish to purchase, avoid it. It’s likely this smell is created by chemicals on the item.

Featured image credit. 

Parents, let us know – do you wash your child’s new clothes before dressing your little one in them? 

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