As reports begin surfacing nationwide concerning toxic skin reactions to a popular line of sexy lingerie, women need to be on the lookout for symptoms that could be more than just annoying. Here's what you need to know. -- by Colette Bouchez --
If you're thinking of boosting your sex appeal with a racy Victoria Secret bra there's something you should know: You just might end up with more attention than you bargained for.
The reason: Some women are reporting swollen, itchy, red, blistering breasts after wearing some styles from this popular lingerie line.
At least one of those women - 37 year old Ohio resident Victoria Ritter - is suing the sexy lingerie manufacturer for what she has described as " Welts...very red, hot to the touch, extremely inflamed, blistery", which she says itched profusely.
Yesterday Ritter told WABC TV News reporter Tappy Phillips she developed the rash after wearing the Angels Secret Embrace and Very Sexy Extreme Me Push-Up bras - two popular styles sold in Victoria Secret stores nationwide, in their mail order catalog, and at their website online.
But if you think Ritter's experience was an isolated one, guess again. The Internet is slowly filling up with similar claims from other Victoria Secret lingerie wearers nationwide - many of their stories detailed on the website MedHelp.com. All seem to describe a similar reaction - and similar symptoms - an issue which Ritter said she hopes will become the basis of a class action suit.
In fact, WABC News is reporting that the class action suit has already been filed, and it's waiting on a judge's decision, which is not expected until next May.
The Mysterious Toxic Lingerie Brew While no one is certain what's causing the problem with the sexy bras, the Ohio law firm representing Ritter told WABC News they did their own testing and pinpointed the source of trouble as formaldehyde - a highly toxic chemical they say was found embedded in the cloth of the lingerie.
Ritter says her doctor diagnosed her rash as a type of allergy and that it could have been caused by exposure to this chemical.
While Victoria's Secret issued a statement saying they are investigating the problem and are sorry that " a small number of women" are having problems, they also deny in the statement any presence of formaldehyde in their bras.
That said, even if there was, it's not the eye-popping "gasp" you might think. Indeed, this nasty chemical initially developed to preserve lab specimens ( remember all those frogs you cut up in biology class - they were floating in formaldehyde) has been used as a preservative in some cosmetic and skin care products as well as being a component of many nail polishes.
Formaldehyde has also been used in the manufacture of certain permanent press fabrics, including some sheets and pillow cases - one reason why many companies suggest consumers wash bedding before sleeping on it.
Formaldehyde off-gassing is also a particularly nasty byproduct of some brands of MDF (medium density fiberboard) - a building material frequently used in low-end "wood look" furniture, and is often a mainstay on popular do-it-yourself and home makeover shows. Tests show that formaldehyde fumes can emanate from some MDF products for up to three years - and that those fumes may be linked to an increase in asthma and other respiratory disorders, and possibly play a role in cancer.
I once bought a "fake wood" bookcase and ended up with burning eyes and skin just from being in the same room with the furniture for a few hours.
That said, I wouldn't be so quick to implicate formaldehyde as the main cause of the sexy bra rashes.
The reason? Medical literature is filled with similar sounding symptoms stemming from allergies caused by other chemicals used in the making of cloth - including cheap dyes. While I don't know if these particular bras were made outside of the United States, but if they were it's important to note that some countries don't have the kind of strict regulations regarding what can be used to color a fabric as we do here in the US.
There are also much less stringent guidelines regarding rinsing the fabrics after they are dyed- and some countries tend to skip this step altogether, leaving many items with a potentially toxic residue if worn without being washed first.
In fact, several years ago a good friend of mine developed a similar itchy, red rash body-wide that her doctor just couldn't seem to pin down. While we were chatting she mentioned she had recently purchased a brightly colored comforter cover made outside the US. I suggested it could be the cause of the rash- and when she ran it by her doctor, the mystery was solved.
Now whether or not formaldehyde, fabric dye or some other factor entirely turns out to be the culprit in the sexy lingerie caper, no one can say just yet.
At the same time, a rash is a rash is a rash - and an itch that you just can't scratch is anything but sexy, no matter how much your lingerie makes you look like Giselle or Lena or Heidi.
So what's a girl to do in the meantime? Well you could turn back the clock to our feminist days of the 1970's and simply go bra-less. ( Over 40? I wouldn't suggest it! )
Better idea: Switch over to good old Playtex for a while. It might not be worn by a gorgeous super model ...but trust me, your "girls" will never know the difference. And you won't itch.