Local News

Items Labeled As 'Non-Toxic' Does Not Always Mean Safe

Posted March 13, 2006 6:26 a.m. EST

— Food and medicine labels list ingredients to help people avoid triggering their allergies, but the label for a non-food product was no help for one mom.

Latex Allergy Info From The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Other Dermatology Sites Of Interest

Art supplies are always around at the Hagelin home. Until a month ago, three-year-old Leah never used fingerpaints. When she did, her arms hurt. It seemed some red paint would not come off.

"As I was washing her arms she said, 'Mommy, Mommy, it's not paint. It's a rashy,'" said Stephanie Hagelin, Leah's mother. "It was real red and rough and raw, and she complained that it hurt a lot."

Leah has food allergies -- peanuts, wheat, barley, rye and oats.

"I grabbed the bottle and I looked around and there's absolutely nothing on the bottle except the label and the name," Hagelin said. "And on the box, all it said was non-toxic."

The Food and Drug Administration requires ingredient information for possible allergens in food products, but not in non-food. She could not get any information over the phone.

A little research on the Internet led Hagelin to one possibility -- latex. It can be in everything from pencil erasers and glue to markers and modeling clay.

"One of the biggest culprits, blowing up a typical old rubber balloon, is probably one of the easiest ways to have reactivity to latex," said allergist Dr. Karen Dunn.

The reaction can be anything from a mild rash to breathing problems. There's no skin test for latex allergy. Blood tests are not always accurate.

"Not only could latex antigens be a factor in some products, but believe it or not, sometimes food antigens can be a factor in some products," Dunn said.

Dunn said wheat can be found in some kinds of modeling clays. Hagelin hopes one day non-food products will include possible allergens on labels, so she will not worry when her children show their artistic side.