Common Furniture Chemical Could Cause Skin Rashes

If you've experienced an outbreak of a sudden skin rash, your new sofa or chair could be the culprit. Doctors have discovered that a chemical preservative frequently added to furniture shipments from China, can cause severe cases of contact dermatitis.

The chemical preservative-dimethylfumate or DMF-is added to furniture shipments to prevent mold from growing. It's often found in sachets tucked into sofa or chair cushions. But unfortunately, those sachets can leak the preservative onto cushions, clothes, and eventually the skin of people who come into contact with the furniture. Not everyone will suffer a reaction, but some will develop an itchy, painful, and unsightly skin rash.

So far, the contact dermatitis outbreaks linked to DMF have been rare in the U.S., but several cases have been documented throughout Europe so the problem may be growing. DMF is also used as a preservative in shipping clothing, shoes, and other products.

One of the issues is that dermatologists struggle to identify the causes of contact dermatitis, since the same substances affect (or often have no effect) on different people. Not everyone will react to DMF.  And because it's not very common right now, if you visit a dermatologist with contact dermatitis that could be related to DMF, it may take awhile for doctors to isolate the allergen that is causing your particular problem.  

Luckily, these rashes are treatable. Doctors will likely prescribe topical corticosteroids for mild cases. Severe cases may require a combination of an oral or injectable corticosteroid, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories to combat the rash. Keeping skin hydrated during the treatment period is also essential in order to promote your skin's natural healing response.


Dermatology Times

American Academy of Dermatology

Medical News Today