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Airborne exposure to preservative methylisothiazolinone causes severe allergic reactions

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 04 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8221
  1. Michael Dyrgaard Lundov, senior researcher1,
  2. Claus Zachariae, chairman 2,
  3. Torkil Menné, professor 2,
  4. Jeanne Duus Johansen, professor1
  1. 1National Allergy Research Centre, Department of Dermato-Allergology, Gentofte Hospital, DK-2820 Gentofte, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Dermto-Allergology, Gentofte Hospital
  1. michael.dyrgaard.lundov{at}

Risk of contact dermatitis is already clear but now non-contact exposure is a growing problem, particularly with paint

Chemicals usually cause allergic reactions through direct contact with the skin. For example, a person may develop an allergic reaction from the use of cosmetic products containing allergenic fragrance ingredients or preservatives. The result is allergic contact dermatitis—a type IV immune reaction. Until recently, airborne exposure to allergens—for example, plant allergens such as compositae or industrial chemicals such as isocyanates—was a well known but rare cause of allergic skin reaction. The introduction of a new preservative, methylisothiazolinone, which is now extensively used in products such as cosmetics and paints, has changed this.1

An alarming increase in allergic skin reactions after airborne exposure to methylisothiazolinone has been seen in several countries. In Denmark, allergic reactions to this compound in patients with eczema rose from 1.4% in 2009 to 3.1% in 2011 (55 positive reactions to methylisothiazolinone in 2470 patch tested patients; data not yet published). Half of the …

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