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Second hand clothes could spread skin diseases

Second hand clothes could spread skin diseases

Mar 01, 2011 - 14:30

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): For many poor people in the Afghan capital, the second-hand clothes market provides an affordable option to keep warm in winter.


But doctors are warning that wearing unwashed clothes may cause skin diseases.


Second-hand clothes are sold all over the capital, in shops and on hand carts. The demand goes up during the winter months when the temperatures can drop to below freezing and only a few Afghans are lucky enough to have the simple wood-burning stove in their homes.


Ramazan, 38, a father of four, bought second-hand winter clothes for his 3-year-old child from a hand cart near Pamir Cinema in Kabul city.  

Asked why he did not buy new clothes for his child, he replied he did not have the money to do so.

"I am a labourer and have a low income. I have to purchase second-hand clothes.  Unless the clothes are very dirty, we don’t wash them. I did not know that wearing second-hand clothes could cause skin diseases,” he said.  

Ramazan said that he and his children often get sick and he did not know the reason for it.

People who wear second-hand clothes must wash or disinfect the items before they wear them or they may suffer from different kinds of skin diseases, Dr. Abdul Matin Baha, a dermatologist at Maiwand Hospital in Kabul, said. 

Diseases like dermatitis, scabies and fungal diseases can be passed on by wearing unwashed second-hand clothes, he said, advising that clothes be washed with warm water and disinfectant and ironed on both sides.

Used shoes and sandals can also carry skin diseases, and should be washed with warm water and disinfectant, Baha said.

Clothes which come into direct contact with the skin, such as underwear, can be the most dangerous if they are not disinfected well.

Baha advised paying more attention to the washing of these types of garments.

Mehro 55, who was buying sweaters for her 9-year old daughter said she could not afford to buy new clothes for her children.

She has nine children and her husband is a hand cart vendor. "We are poor, we have to buy used clothing," she said.

“These clothes may cause disease but the winter weather is also dangerous,” she said.

The price of a second-hand sweater is between 40 afgnanis ($0.80) to 70 afghanis, while at the store such an item can cost 300 afghanis, she said.

"Two months ago, one of my children got an itchy rash all over his body. When we took him to the doctor he said it was due to wearing used clothing," she said.

Mir Hassan 42, who sells second-hand clothes near Pamir Cinema said they do not wash the clothes before selling them.

According to him, they buy second-hand clothes from traders in the Chindawol or Mandawi area, and then they sell them on.

Most of their customers are poor, he said.

“Prices will increase if the traders wash and disinfect the clothes and then people cannot afford to buy them,” he said.

Faiz Mohammad, 25, who sells children’s used sweaters in Kabul’s city centre, said most of his customers are poor and cannot afford to buy new clothes.

"The weather is very cold and most of our clients are poor; therefore, they have to buy used clothes, and they put them on their children unwashed."

Most of the used clothes, including sweaters, coats, shirts, under wear, socks, boots, shoes and sandals are imported from European countries, the United States and Canada, according to traders.  

Mohammad Qasim Sahebi, a doctor at Jamhoriat Hospital, also said certain bacteria and infections could be spread by second-hand clothes.

The bacteria on the clothes are very resistant and so unless the garments are treated, the germs will remain and cause skin diseases, he said.

Sahebi advised storing the clothes for 48 hours in a cold area, then washing them with disinfectant and warm water and using a hot iron on both sides.

He said the media division of the Ministry of Public Healthinfo-icon should advise people on how to treat second-hand clothes to avoid the spread of skin diseases.

Dr. Mohammad Hakim Satar, deputy chief of the environmental health department, acknowledged his department had not done anything to promote better treatment of used clothing.

His department was more involved in the field of air pollution, food safety and safe drinking water, he said.


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