Biocide Dimethyl Fumarate (CAS 624-49-7).
Back in February 2008 the UK consumer programme “Watchdog” reported a story about Chinese manufactured leather sofas, sold by a number of leading high street retailers in the UK, including Argos, Land of Leather and Walmsleys, that had lead to severe skin reactions due to the use of Dimethyl Fumarate.
The fungicide is contained within a sachet which is placed inside the sofas in order to protect against mould during storage, transit and everyday usage.
These sachets often look similar to those that contain silica gel, a non harmful desiccant frequently used in leather products.
By early 2009, more than 5,000 people in the UK had reported skin, chest and eye injuries after using imported furniture.
The use of DMF had been banned for several years but was permitted in products imported from outside the EU.
On 1 May 2009 the European Commission banned products containing “DMF” from being placed on the market and the EU is considering changing the biocides directive so that substance bans include additions to imported articles.
As a result of the regulations, any product already on the market had to be either withdrawn or recalled from customers.
DMF has been found to be an allergic sensitiser at low concentration and can produce extensive and pronounced eczema that is difficult to treat. Concentrations as low as one part per million may produce allergic reactions.
In Finland, from 2006 to 2007, an allergic reaction to the substance resulted in 60 users receiving serious rashes.
In Spain, around 40 brands of footwear have been found to contain DMF which is often used while the shoes are in storage.
A popular French distribution chain also found footwear sold in its stores to have been contaminated by DMF and has received complaints of skin damage.
During 2009 there were product recalls in Spain, France, Poland, Finland, Sweden the UK and Germany.
Health problems included skin irritation, burns and, in some cases, acute respiratory difficulties.
While DMF maybe an effective antifungal agent, it is harmful in contact with the skin and if in contact with the eyes could result in serious damage.
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