10 Questions to ask your Textile Buyer
Being CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® gives a product an edge over its competitors in many ways. What is it exactly that makes an asthma & allergy friendly® textile stand out? Here are some useful questions and answers to make that advantage clear.
Did you know that the most allergen prone room is the bedroom and that dust mite are the most common allergen?
This is an important factor to consider in controlling allergies and asthma because we spend so much time in the bedroom. Young children can spend more than 12 hours a day in a bed and up to 8 hours a day as they grow older. The dust mite allergen is one of the major offenders for people with allergic asthma. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that in some regions as many as 90% of people with allergic asthma have dust mite allergy. The perfect climatic conditions for dust mites occur in North America in the mid- and southern Atlantic coast, Gulf Coast, central Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and British Columbia.
Dust mites eat human secretions and the skin cells we shed and they thrive in pillows, mattresses, blankets, carpeting and curtains. The most favourable conditions for growth are found in the bedroom. It’s the mites’ faeces that causes most allergy, though their bodies do too. The faeces disintegrate into a fine powder which is easily floats into the air when disturbed, like when we make the bed. A CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® textile will ensure that a product behaves in such a way as to reduce exposure to dust mites as much as possible.
Did you know that the term ‘hypoallergenic’ has no scientific basis?
The term ‘hypoallergenic’ is a familiar sight on textile packaging but what some consumers don’t know is that the term is completely unregulated and can be used without the product having been tested at all. The U.S. government doesn’t have standards that products must meet in order to put ‘hypoallergenic’ on the label. On its website, the FDA writes “There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term ‘hypoallergenic’. The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean.”
It’s time to educate consumers around labelling and certifications. Independently tested scientific methods are the gold standard and the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program is one such trusted label.
Did you know that any fabric CERTIFIED by asthma & allergy friendly® must be an effective barrier to allergens and this includes testing any zipper or seams?
The fabric on the outside of the product must stop dust mites and dust mite allergen from passing through to make contact with skin. This is tested and measured in a laboratory in a way that simulates the bedroom environment. Sometimes, the seams on products can be an easier way for dust mites to escape so the same test is applied to any seams and zippers. House dust mite allergen can be as small as 10 microns and so preventing passage of these minute particles through textile fabrics can be challenging (a full stop is about 400 micron). Many other certifications don’t test barrier performance. A CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® textile will fulfil these criteria.
Are you aware that in order to be CERTFIED the allergens must be removed by washing?
All CERTIFIED bedding must show that any allergen on the bedding are really removed by washing. The product is put in a climate-controlled chamber, beside other bedding products that already have dust mites in them. This is so that the dust mites will move across to the new bedding product, in a way that mimics what happens in your bedroom. It is left there for six weeks, and then washed. It’s tested afterwards to make sure that the allergen has been removed. Only then can it be considered to be suitable for the asthma & allergy friendly® mark.
Did you know that In order for bedding to be CERTIFIED, it must be able to withstand multiple washes at high temperatures so it must be of high quality and very durable?
Dust mites are found in all soft furnishings, and so if you are sensitive to them, it’s important to wash your bedding regularly. The quality of products needs to allow for regular washing, without becoming lumpy or misshapen. The Certification Program washes the products 18 times (12 times for larger items like comforters), to make sure that they maintain their shape and appearance so the consumer can be sure of its quality and durability.
Did you know that allergy to feather and down is much rarer than allergy to dust mite?
In the past, it was thought that allergy to feathers was relatively common. However, research has shown that this kind of allergy is quite rare. It is more common for people to be allergic to the dust mites on feathers, or to particular proteins that were produced by the bird before the feather was plucked. These days, regulations in the feather and down industry means that any feathers used in bedding must be intensively cleaned, so these allergens are reduced as much as possible.
The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program does test feather and down bedding and in fact runs additional tests to ensure these reach their strict standards. This includes testing for mould and bacteria. Only if the product meets the standard is it awarded the mark.
Is a sheet a sufficient allergen barrier?
Unfortunately, no. Sheets can be labelled asthma & allergy friendly®, because they can be a useful part of allergen control in bedding, and because they are in direct contact with the skin. However, using a CERTIFIED mattress protector is recommended.
Are you aware that a product certified asthma & allergy friendly® means that it is ‘breathable’?
A breathable fabric allows air to pass through it easily, so that the fabric does not become too warm or uncomfortable. This is so important for a comfortable night’s sleep. A balance has to be found between a fabric that will prevent the passage of allergen through it but at the same time is comfortable and breathable. For example, a plastic bag will not allow allergen through but certainly would not be very comfortable to sleep on!
Did you know that a CERTIFIED product means that it produces very low levels of toxic chemicals?
Many different chemicals can be used when bedding is being made. The asthma & allergy friendly®Certification Program tests all the materials in the bedding product for any chemicals such as azo dyes, pesticides, allergens and irritants, to make sure that any chemicals that are known to be irritants to the skin are either not present, or are present at such a low level that they are unlikely to cause a problem.
Are you aware that allergies are a common cause of poor sleep?
Allergies can have a severe impact on quality of sleep. Itchy nose, eyes and throat, runny nose, headache and sneezing can lead to chronic sleep loss. Studies have shown that people with allergies have an increased risk of insomnia, hypersomnia, sleepiness and memory loss. The swelling of the nasal passages that occurs during an allergic reaction narrows the airway passage and can cause the dangerous phenomenon of sleep apnoea. All these lead to daytime fatigue, memory impairment and difficulty concentrating. So for a better night’s sleep for those 50 million Americans who have allergies, the right choice of bedding can be crucial.
Did you know that asthma & allergy friendly® textiles are also better for your indoor air quality?
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are chemical compounds that easily become vapours or gases. VOCs enter the body either by inhaling the gases or through our skin when it comes in contact with them. These toxic compounds are linked with many health issues. In the short term they can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and airways. They can also cause headaches, dizziness and memory problems. Long term exposure may cause nausea, fatigue, damage to liver, kidneys and central nervous system and also cancer. New bedding sometimes gives off the distinctive smell of VOCs. The Certification Program makes sure that any VOC emissions from the bedding products are extremely low.
Medical & Lifestyle Author Dr Anna O’Donovan
About Dr. Anna O’Donovan – Medical & Lifestyle Author
Anna is a mum of three children, one with allergies, and she suffers from allergies and asthma herself. She is a qualified doctor and worked as a General Practitioner and as a dentist for a number of years. She is also an award-winning author.
certification, textiles, pillows, mattresses, sleep, air quality, indoor air quality, asthma, coronavirus, healthy, allergies, dust mite, allergens, air purifiers, air filters, respiratory disease, healthy home, Covid-19, coronavirus, hypoallergenic
References and further reading
asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program Read here
ASTHMA & ALLERGY FRIENDLY™ CERTIFICATION PROGRAM Read here
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