Researchers working at the skin clinic at Malmö University Hospital (MAS) have managed to trace a toxic anti-mould agent which has caused several thousand of Europeans to suffer from aggravated eczema.
Several indications emerged that the infections were connected to the purchase of imported furniture from China.
An extraordinary number of cases began to show up in the UK and Finland in the spring of 2007. Symptoms were so severe that doctors began to suspect tumour-related illnesses. It was soon established that the affected patients had all bought furniture manufactured by the Chinese company Linkwise, according to Sydsvenska Dagbladet.
The “epidemic” spread across northern Europe and is thought to have affected several thousand people.
The first cases of “sofa eczema” began to emerge in Sweden last week.
Researchers in Malmö have now been able to conclusively solve the riddle and establish a link between the eczema outbreak and the furniture. Small packets of “anti mould agent” were found to contain the toxic substance, called dimethylfumarate.
“Last spring we couldn’t have dreamed that we would find such a strong allergy-causing substance in furniture,” said professor Magnus Bruze at MAS to Sydsvenska Dagbladet.
The substance is not previously known to cause allergic reactions.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency (Kemikalieinspektionen) is now working to trace Swedish companies that have imported and sold the affected Chinese furniture.
In the UK a class action lawsuit involving 750 people has been launched to seek compensation from companies that have sold products contain the substance.