Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re not being spied on. Often allergic people with a reaction to birch are afraid to buy furniture made of chipboard. Suddenly, birch shavings come across? I talk about it without a shadow of a smile. I know that sensitive immunity will find something to resent. And it will not necessarily be the materials from which the furniture is made. On the upholstery you can find house dust mites, cockroaches, animal hair, food debris. Get used to being a detective. Buy a magnifying glass, tweezers and a collection of Conan Doyle books 🙂
Here is the story of my reader, whose child suffers from an allergy to birch, nuts and a cat. She bought a new mattress. The kid slept on it for several days and suddenly one morning his eyes swelled up. They decided that the cause of the symptoms was coconut flakes – they took the mattress to the balcony.
Then they began to think, sort out options. The mattress was covered with a protective cover and the likelihood of a reaction to it seemed not high. They remembered what they ate for dinner the day before, where they went, what toys they played with. It turned out that Natalya’s husband ate porridge for breakfast, ate it with walnuts and leafed through the news on the phone, which he then gave to his son. A microscopic amount of nut dust was enough to cause a reaction in the baby. The mattress was innocent.
They stopped buying nuts, the mattress was returned to the bedroom. Allergic reactions did not recur.
Other story. The girl bought a desk on Avito. Not new, but in excellent condition, and most importantly, perfectly fit into the interior. And here’s the bad luck – when the table arrived, my daughter had a stuffy nose, and in the morning a cough was added. My daughter is allergic to birch and dogs.
This is an allergy to furniture – the girl thought – and decided to sell the table. But first she decided to call the former owner of the table. It turned out that he had dogs in the house and dog allergens arrived along with the table. And again, the furniture has nothing to do with it. The table still had to be sold, as dog allergens can persist for a long time.
Here is the case with my son. For his birthday, grandfather made a yacht for his grandson. For the yacht I made a plywood portable hangar – a box. When the child unpacked the gift, hives appeared on his hands. I began to sort through the possible causes: wood dust? oil paint? No. It turned out that while the box was lying in the workshop, a local cat made a nest in it. The yacht was left in the room, and the box was removed to the garage.
Why am I telling you all this. Allergy to furniture – to varnish, glue, upholstery materials, paint – is not uncommon, but often an allergic person reacts to something else. In medicine, there is a concept: sick building syndrome, this is when residents (and not only allergy sufferers) experience discomfort from low-quality building materials, construction dust, and cheap furniture.
Allergy to wood dust
Runny nose, conjunctivitis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, contact dermatitis, allergic alveolitis (hypersensitivity pneumonitis), toxic organic dust syndrome (ODTS), aspergillosis are diseases that often plague furniture makers.
Scientists have found that the biological effect of exposure to wood dust depends on its composition and the content of microorganisms in it. The most allergenic dust in subtropical trees: thuja (western red cedar, Thuja plicata), evergreen sequoia (Sequoia sempervirens), abashi (Triplochiton scleroxylon), cocoballs (Dalbergia retusa) and others.
Exotic woods are used in the manufacture of furniture, musical instruments, tool handles and other products.
European trees are less allergenic: larch (Larix), walnut (Juglans regia), oak (Quercus), beech (Fagus), pine (Pinus). Link to source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8231799/
Dust in the processing of oak and beech can lead to the development of tonsillitis and bronchial hyperreactivity.
Link to source: https://oem.bmj.com/content/57/4/268
Away from furniture workshops, wood dust allergies are not common. There may be a small risk of a reaction when assembling furniture in an apartment or from firewood in a country house. (I wrote about the allergy to firewood here).
Away from furniture workshops, wood dust allergies are not common. There may be a small risk of a reaction when assembling furniture in an apartment or from firewood in a country house. (I wrote about the allergy to firewood ).
I was wondering how much wood dust can be in the air? Found the answer in the scientific community: 5 micron wood dust particles remain in the air for 30 minutes or longer, depending on air movement. Therefore, if you like to assemble furniture at home, chop wood or carve wood figurines, do not forget to turn on the air purifier, wear a respirator, goggles, gloves, vacuum the floor, walls, ceiling and mop the floors.
Allergy to solid wood furniture
Hardwood furniture: beech, oak, birch, alder, maple, ash, cherry, walnut, linden, hornbeam, acacia, etc.
Allergy sufferers who react to the major allergenic protein of birch Bet v 1 are advised by doctors to refrain from buying hardwood furniture. Especially if it is furniture made of raw wood. If you still really want, then pick up varnished furniture.
It is believed that wood can retain pollen for a long time. Frankly, I have not found evidence or research on this topic. Although I searched carefully. I addressed this question to the St. Petersburg Botanical Institute. The palynologist doubted that pollen allergenicity could persist for a long time. However, one must understand that a palynologist is not an allergist. If you suddenly find confirmation or refutation of this hypothesis, be sure to write.
I found information that mold fungi are perfectly preserved in birch wood: Alternaria (Alternaria alternata) and Aspergillus (Aspergillus). Penicillium citrinum lives in oak wood. Keep this in mind, molds can cause allergic reactions. Link to source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11426929/
Birch can harbor the bacteria Pantoea agglomerans and Microbacterium barkeri, which sometimes cause Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.
Furniture made of coniferous wood: spruce, pine, cedar, yew, larch, thuja.
Coniferous trees protect against decay – quinones, lapachols, terpenes – which are responsible for the characteristic resinous smell. The set and amount of chemicals can vary from tree to tree. In 1956, scientists observed Indonesian natives and noticed that the locals knew exactly what kind of teak and even what kind of wood irritated their skin. Irritation can be caused by the high content of lapachol in the wood.
Resins irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes and respiratory tract and can cause eczema.
Cases of contact dermatitis have been described after saunas that have been finished with Red Cedar (Tuja) wood. Link to source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jdv.12937
The resins and essential oils of conifers contain a large amount of chemicals that can be strong allergens. They are called terpenes: Linalool, Caryophyllene, Pinene.
Terpenes themselves do not cause allergies: in order to start the reaction, oxidation from contact with air is necessary. When an allergic person breathes linalool or pinene-laden air, the respiratory symptoms of the allergy are triggered. Terpenes cannot cause inflammation of the lungs, except when they enter the body in high concentrations in conditions of low humidity.
Pine terpene is a fairly common allergen. Herbal terpene is also quite common and most allergists know that allergy sufferers often react not to grass pollen, but to herbal terpene.
The maximum amount of terpene in the leaves before and immediately after flowering. Then quickly falls.
Well, we found another seasonal allergen in addition to pollen and mold.
Coniferous trees retain their allergenicity even after the flowering period. The charming blue haze over the mountains covered with coniferous forests is like terpenes released into the atmosphere. I found cases of allergy to newsprint described in the 1970s and 80s. Symptoms appeared when allergy sufferers opened a fresh newspaper. Paper is made from cellulose, cellulose is extracted from wood, including. conifers, so the paper may contain terpenes. By the way, terpenes can also be found in printing ink.
Where else are terpenes found? Yes, there are many places: in citrus, umbrella, mint, lavender, anise, dill, orange, lemon, grapefruit, cedar, fir, spruce, wormwood, chamomile and a thousand other plants. Terpenes give plants and fruits their color, rich aroma and specific tart taste.
I think now you understand that there is an allergy to coniferous trees. By the way, here is a link to my article – Pine Allergy.
Solid wood furniture is expensive, not everyone can afford it. To reduce the cost of production, furniture makers make only the base from the array, and panels, partitions, shelves – all this is done from chipboard.
Chipboard allergy and formaldehyde
Chipboard, also known as Particle board or low-density fiberboard is a pressed board made of wood shavings and sawdust mixed with glue that contains formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a pungent odor – a terribly poisonous carcinogen and a strong allergen. Formaldehyde vapors can cause nausea, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Formaldehyde is not only an allergen, but also a powerful irritant.
Formaldehyde adversely affects the respiratory system, causing paresis of the respiratory tract (stopping breathing), the skin (pronounced dermatitis, eczema, ulcers), the nervous system (encephalopathy). Potentially, formaldehyde can cause asthma and asthmatic attacks.
With proper furniture production, the action (emission) of formaldehyde can be minimized.
If the content of formaldehyde vapors is increased, you can get inflammation of the nasopharyngeal mucosa, sore throat, dry cough, eye irritation (blush, watery). Those who are particularly susceptible are at risk of spasm and swelling of the larynx, shortness of breath, pneumonia and bronchitis.
The level of formaldehyde in an apartment can significantly exceed the permissible limits. There are regulations that limit the level of formaldehyde in furniture. For example, no more than 0.01 mg/m3 for children’s furniture. The amount of formaldehyde emission is measured by emission class E, which is indicated in the furniture hygiene certificate. It is believed that if the furniture is made of class E1 chipboard, then the environmental friendliness of such a material is comparable to natural wood. Unfortunately, the European quality certificate, as well as the Russian certificate of conformity, cannot guarantee allergy sufferers. Everyone’s sensitivity to formaldehyde is different.
In Europe, furniture made of chipboard or MDF is marked: each product is marked with a sign of compliance with a particular level of safety.
Chipboard can emit formaldehyde for more than 10 years, and especially strongly during the first year and a half. New furniture emits the highest amount of formaldehyde, then its level decreases. Reduces the release of formaldehyde and laminated film, which covers the furniture. But from paint, a bad effect on the body can intensify.
A specific strong odor gives out an increased content of formaldehyde in chipboard. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, formaldehyde behaves differently in different environments. The level of formaldehyde emission may vary depending on the furniture storage conditions, time of year or day. In a store that maintains normal humidity, you will not smell, no matter how hard you try.
Formaldehyde begins to be intensively released from chipboard in warm rooms with high humidity. Be careful with ozonizers – ozone (O3) increases the level of formaldehyde emission.
So what should an allergic person do, how to reduce the risks from contact with chipboard furniture? First, be sure to check the hygiene certificate for furniture. Secondly, pay attention to the quality of the finish: the end sections of the slab must be well insulated – pasted over with laminate, the joints are sealed, the chips are processed.
If you find open areas somewhere, it doesn’t matter, they can be treated with silicone during assembly.
Before you bring chipboard furniture into the apartment, you can ventilate it: put the headset in the garage for a couple of weeks, some of the harmful fumes will go away.
And do not forget to ventilate the rooms – the more often the better. If you want to know the level of harmful fumes in the apartment, you can call specialists for an air examination. I’m afraid to sound paranoid, but this thought came to my mind 🙂
Furniture components made of fiberboard
Furniture components are usually made from fibreboard: back walls of cabinets, shelves, drawers, headboards, partitions. In the production of fiberboard, in addition to waste from wood processing, binders are used: synthetic resins, water repellents (paraffin, ceresin), antiseptics.
Most often, allergy sufferers react to a synthetic resin called: Para-tertiary butylphenol-formaldehyde resin (PTBP-FR). These resins are used by manufacturers of plywood, plastics, lacquer, and some leather products. This is why people who are allergic to fiberboard may react to leather shoes or plastic products. Link to source: https://www.sciencedirect.com
MDF or Medium-density fiberboard
MDF is medium-density fibreboard. It is believed that MDF is resistant to fungi and microorganisms. In furniture production, decorative facades are made from MDF. At the same time, the plate is faced with natural or synthetic veneer, film impregnated with resin, PVC film, laminated.
In the production of the boards themselves, a small amount (2.5%) of phenol-formaldehyde resin is used as a binder. It is believed that MDF boards are safe for allergy sufferers. Of course, in the case when manufacturers do not neglect the requirements for environmental friendliness of the material.
Plywood is widely used in furniture production. If anyone did not know, plywood is glued from thin sheets of wood – veneer. Veneer is coniferous or birch. Plywood is laminated with phenolic, melamine or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film. The laminated surface is mold resistant, but the impregnation and coating can contain a high percentage of toxic phenols.
In furniture production, plywood with the following types of impregnation is used:
- FC – urea-formaldehyde. The most environmentally friendly impregnation – urea-formaldehyde composition contains the least toxic substances that do not evaporate at room temperature;
- PSF – phenol-formaldehyde. Suitable for residential areas;
Other types of plywood are not suitable for living spaces and are not commonly used by furniture makers.
However, allergy sufferers who work in the plywood industry are at risk: contact allergic dermatitis from melamine-formaldehyde resins (MFR) can occur in allergy sufferers working on melamine paper impregnation lines.
Furniture Glue allergy
In addition to various wood boards, glue is used in the actual assembly of the furniture itself or furniture parts. Furniture adhesives contain synthetic or natural ingredients that can develop an allergic reaction, irritation, contact dermatitis. It is difficult to find out how toxic the fumes of furniture glue in your apartment are without a special air analysis.
Varnishes and paints
Any paints and any varnishes can cause symptoms of an allergic reaction. A strong smell from lacquered or painted furniture, most likely from a solvent: dichloroethane, acetone, gasoline, butyl acetate, xylene, carbon tetrachloride, etc.
When an allergic person inhales the vapors of these wonderful liquids, or when they penetrate the body through the skin, nothing good can be expected. Solvent fumes can lead to poisoning, the symptoms of which are headache, dizziness, drowsiness, irritability, nausea, and vomiting. Solvents often irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes and upper respiratory tract, and can cause dermatitis.
When you buy furniture, be sure to ask for certificates for paints and varnishes. It is best if you find furniture painted with allergy paint, for example with the Asthma Label.
You can also be allergic to oil paint.
Cases of contact dermatitis on polishing varnish have been described.
Link to source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ced.14458
Rosin is the resin of conifers from which turpentine and other volatile compounds have been removed. In furniture production, rosin is used in adhesives and polishes. The main components that can cause allergy symptoms are abietic acid and abitol (a mixture of various hydroabetyl alcohols).
Antimicrobial coating on table mat
Described a case of contact dermatitis due to an antimicrobial coating on a table mat
Upholstery and furniture filler
Filler and furniture upholstery should be hypoallergenic and not attractive to house dust mites. For example, leather or modern leather substitutes collect less dust and are easier to care for. But leather furniture often contains allergens: cobalt, chromate, octylisothiazolinone.
Pay attention to impregnations with which materials can be processed. There is such a substance – dimethyl fumarate – it was often used to protect furniture from mold. So, this same dimethyl fumarate was banned in the European Union in 2009, after repeated customer complaints about the appearance of contact dermatitis.
Allergy to animals and plant pollen should carefully study the composition of the furniture. In the production of armchairs, beds, sofas, flooring materials are sometimes used: horse hair, bristles, animal hair, feathers, down, sea grass, hemp stalks, jute, linen. It is better to look for furniture with polyurethane foam fillers, holofibear, synthetic winterizer, synthetic fluff, durafil – a dust mite does not live in them.
Furniture upholstery that cause allergies less often than others: cotton, tapestry, chenille, jacquard. The main requirement for upholstery is that it should be easy to clean and collect dust as little as possible. Dust mites colonies will also start on good upholstery – furniture should be regularly vacuumed and treated with acaricidal agents.
School furniture allergy
Yes, it happens. We have already discussed allergy to school (link to article). Now let’s talk about allergies to school furniture.
Unfortunately, schools often use furniture and building materials that can cause symptoms of allergies, contact dermatitis, shortness of breath and asthma.
I found the results of a study of 5,951 Russian schoolchildren aged 8 to 12 who developed allergy and asthma symptoms due to recent renovations. Most likely, the symptoms provoked – new linoleum, carpet, chipboard, wall materials, paint, furniture.
Another study found an association between home renovation periods and childhood asthma. Interesting observations: if during the year before the birth of the child the apartment was renovated or new furniture appeared, the newborns were more likely to get asthma.
If parents bought new furniture in the first years of a baby’s life, this also increased the risk of developing asthma. Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/
Furniture Allergy Treatment or Prevention
My friend did not know that apartment renovation and new furniture can harm a newborn baby. And who knew before?
She was four months pregnant when she and her husband started renovating the apartment. They wanted the baby to appear in an updated apartment, with fresh wallpaper and new furniture. Carpet on the floor – so that the baby does not hurt to fall, beautiful vinyl wallpaper, bright furniture.
Almost from birth, the baby suffered from swelling of the nose and constant bronchitis. A friend rushed from one doctor to another – they suspected an allergy, but they could not find the allergen. The case helped.
A young pediatrician came to the next call. She listened to complaints and gave advice – look for an allergen in the apartment, remove carpets and upholstered furniture, look for mold. She said that negative tests for allergies do not mean at all that there is no allergy.
Parents approached the task radically: they ordered an examination of air and furniture. The examination showed an increased, almost 3 times the norm, levels of phenols, formaldehyde, toluene and molds. They had to turn a beautiful apartment into an allergy sufferer’s apartment.
They removed the wallpaper and treated the walls with anti-mold liquid. The walls were painted with Asthma Label allergy paint.
The carpet was replaced with porcelain stoneware. Since the child is still small, his mother wanted to lay linoleum in the children’s room, but changed her mind – they laid non-slip mats on the tiles that can be washed.
They removed the stretch ceilings. Soft plush furniture was replaced with leather. The cabinets were sold, and instead a dressing room with metal baskets and rails was installed. For toys and books, they bought metal medical cabinets, the paint in which is baked in ovens. The wooden beds were replaced with metal ones.
They bought mattresses filled with holcon and struttofiber.
Down pillows have been replaced with synthetic-filled pillows. Anti-mite covers were put on blankets and mattresses.
Metal facades were put on the kitchen set, wooden tables and chairs were replaced with plastic and glass furniture. They removed the interior doors, left the arches open, curtained the bathroom with a thick curtain that can be washed.
Before bringing the child to the renovated apartment, the parents ventilated it for 3 months. Now they have been living there for more than one month, everything is fine.
Frankly, I was both delighted and horrified by the work done. At one time, my family also had to go to additional costs and inconvenience – we removed all the carpets, left only leather furniture, replaced all the bedding, the cat was taken to my grandmother. But to remove wallpaper, change kitchen facades and remove doors, is too much.
Take care and be healthy!