A research team in Bochum, Germany became aware of the allergen load when a woman complained of breathing difficulties while sorting through used clothing. While investigating the possibility of an occupational illness, it was discovered that she was sensitised to house dust mites and cat hair.
The researchers then took dust samples from the workplace. For comparison, they also took dust samples from households with and without cats.
At the workplace of the used clothing employee, the researchers found that the average level of house dust mites was over 50 times higher than in a normal household. The cat allergen load from cat hair, for instance, was five times higher on average than in households with cats.
Used clothing in Germany
Each year, private households in Germany deposit around 1.35 million tonnes of used clothing into collection containers. The CO2 emissions from the fashion industry are higher than those from international flights and cruise ships combined. Every German buys an average of 60 items of clothing per year.
More information on this topic can be found at the exhibition ‘Fast Fashion. The Dark Sides of Fashion.’ It runs until 2 August 2020 in the Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European cultures) in the south of Berlin.
German Allergy Congress 2019. Poster presentation, p. 2.6: “Gibt es eine erhöhte Allergenexposition bei der Alttextiliensortierung?” (“Is there increased exposure to allergens when sorting old textiles?”) – Sander I et al.