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Home-textiles to act as allergy shield

May '07
In Germany alone there are currently about 10 million people suffering from allergies, of whom many are sensitive to house dust mites. Textiles serve as both the transmitter and the habitat for dust mites, and so can play a critical role in allergy protection.

Especially at night, these allergy sufferers are virtually unprotected, at the mercy of the spider-like creatures living in the mattress and their allergenic faecal products. This is why there are excellent market opportunities for new product developments in this field, which are designed effectively to keep the mites at a distance, kill them, or protect people from inhaling the waste products. But how can textiles be developed which fight mites effectively? How can their anti-mite effect be objectively demonstrated?

Mattress covers, so-called “encasings“, can, because of their layered structure (sometimes laminates), create a certain physical barrier between the mite excrement and the human respiratory system. The technical challenge for producers is to design the structure of the fabric and the laminate bonding in such a way that it is sealed against the mite waste and yet remains breathable.

In order to check this, the Institute of Hygiene and Biotechnology (IHB) at the Hohenstein Institutes has established its own colony of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus dust mites, which it used to develop a test to determine the dust mite prevention properties of textiles.

As well as the encasings, especially for bedding there are also chemical treatments specifically designed to combat the mites themselves. For example, many mattress covers and fillings contain textile fibres with antimicrobial properties. This is achieved by treating the textiles with biocidal chemicals (e.g. permethrin) or by inserting biocides into the textile fibres.

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