Allergic reaction against blue jeans.
May 21, 2017 12:00 PM   Subscribe

A jeans nearly killed me. What chemical tests are reasonably available?

A Tommy Hilfiger blue jeans caused very serious skin problems to me. A short google does not bring up any of such incidents. My hands and arms were totally "rotten". I was for 2-3 Months on and off Predisolone tablets and this problem basically took out 2 months of my life. It took me a very long time to figure out that the contact with the jeans does this (contact dermatitis, I mean, what is touching your hands?). Only when it also started on the legs, I got the idea. It calmed down after I stopped wearing this jeans. I was intensively traveling for 2 month and had only three trousers with me. Since it started only late on the legs I suspect it is the dye (jeans are not very blue on the inside). Yes, it was washed several times. Actually washing is the first thing I do with new clothes.

I was in short contact with the company but not much came out of it. Under EU law (REACH) they still have 30 days to give an answer regarding possible chemicals.

I would like to have the jeans tested. I have never had such a reaction to clothes. Either it is the dye or something is not right with this item. Internet says such allergies are mostly caused by

- Formaldehyde resins used in fabrics to make them wrinkle-resistant
- Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) used i.n textile and fur dyes
- Azo and anthraquinone based dispersal dyes. These dyes are loosely bound to the fabric structure and can easily rub off onto the skin.
- Flame retardants [tris(2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate (13) and 2,3-dibromocresylglycidyl ether]

What labs do such testing and how much does it cost?

Any other words of wisdom?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ugh, I've had reactions from jeans before, as well as jeans where the chemicals just wouldn't ever wash out, to the point that they forever had the scent of liquid fertilizer. I ended up having to get rid of at least one pair.

One thing you can do, even before getting the clothing tested, is to get yourself tested for contact dermatitis (go to a dermatologist or allergist and get a T.R.U.E. test, which involves patches on your back). Then you'd know for sure whether you have a reaction to one of those common chemicals in clothing—in my case, I have the formaldehyde resin allergy, which explained a lot of reactions I'd been having to various things, including some new carpet in my office a few years ago.
posted by limeonaire at 12:08 PM on May 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I am allergic to blue dye (diagnosed via a patch test), which is especially problematic in jeans. Washing them doesn't help; blue dye will wash out of jeans for, well, the lifetime of a pair of jeans. They'll never wash clear.

Some brands are worse than others. Some washes are worse than others. Some reactions are worse than others because of external factors (sweat, detergents, cleanliness, how much OTHER stuff you're reacting to). When I was in a major flareup of systemic allergies three or so years ago I couldn't wear jeans at all.

It might be something else in the fabric but you're much better off figuring out what YOU are allergic to first and then identifying if it's used in that particular brand of jeans.
posted by lydhre at 12:41 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Toxicologist here. The signs and symptoms you describe could fit a number of different types of reactions, and by extension the number of particular textile-related chemicals that could be the culprit(s). Without a diagnosis from a doctor, it's impossible to know whether the reaction you're describing was an allergy (skin sensitization), irritation, corrosion, and so on (this is important under REACH, which you mention, as substances have varying levels of acceptable risk of causing each of those reactions. "Contact dermatitis" is a generic diagnosis that includes all of these reactions. Did your doctor give you any greater detail?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should add, it's terrible that you've been put through this suffering but unless there's evidence that the jeans manufacturer mislabeled their product in some way (i.e., did they say the jeans were free of some substance that they actually contained?), the manufacturer isn't at fault under chemical regulations. As is so often the case, your personal recourse may be more likely to have an impact if you take your complaints to the brand via social media. Hilfiger might respond more quickly to a tweet about their products causing illness than to an email.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:59 AM on May 22, 2017

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