Research and Development

Merino wool recognised as asthma and allergy-friendly

Sheep Central, September 23, 2020

MERINO wool has been officially recognised as asthma and allergy friendly, according to Australian Wool Innovation.

AWI said research funded by the company has led to international certification body Allergy Standards Limited officially recognising bedding products made from Merino wool as asthma & allergy friendly®.

AWI’s program manager for fibre advocacy & eco credentials, Angus Ireland, said the endorsement by ASL of Merino wool was a direct result of investment in scientific research by ÁWI on behalf of Australian wool growers.

“Collecting the evidence that wool is not an allergen was the first step in overcoming the misconception that people with eczema or even those with sensitive skin should not wear superfine wool next to the skin.

“Our second aim was to have our research results recognised more widely by allergists, dermatologists and physicians – and so it is very rewarding to see bodies such as ASL now recognising Merino wool as asthma and allergy friendly,” he said.

“The ultimate aim is that this research will lead to increased consumer demand for products made using Australian Merino wool.”

Australia produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of superfine Merino wool under or equal to 18.5 microns in diameter.

AWI said in its rationale for issuing its new certification standard (ASP: 02-25/101) for bedding containing Merino wool, ASL references results contained in four recent research papers funded by AWI.

“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that high quality, fine Merino wool is non-irritant and of low risk to those with sensitive skin,” ASL has stated.

“A recent report reviewing the literature on the subject found that a coarse fibre diameter (>30-32 micron) will induce a cutaneous irritation that is not observed with finer Merino wool.

“The effects on patients with mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis wearing Merino clothing was also recently examined in several clinical studies carried out in Australia and the US.”

The main study conducted by an expert group of allergists, immunologists, and dermatologists from across the globe, reviewed the past 100 years of research to assess claims that wool causes allergy. This analysis, published as Debunking the Myth of Wool Allergy, found no evidence that wool is an allergen.

AWI said the study found that any skin irritation caused by a fabric was due to the incidence of coarse fibres (ie fibres with a large diameter) protruding from the fabric and that this cause is independent of fibre type; it is not due to the fibre type being wool. Skin irritation can just as readily be caused by coarse synthetic fibres, such as acrylic and nylon, as by coarse wool fibres.

Importantly, AWI said the study found that suitably selected superfine Merino products are healthy for the skin, especially for those with the most sensitive skin. Superfine Merino wool fibres bend easily, causing minimal or no skin irritation.

The study also found that known allergens applied during textile processing are minimally present in wool garments today given current industry practices and are unlikely to lead to allergic reactions. AWI said recent studies suggest that contemporary superfine Merino wool with its reduced fibre diameters benefit eczema management.


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