WITH human health a critical area of social concerns, little wonder the United Nation’s sustainable development goals aim for healthy lives for all by 2030 is its third most important goal.
It is this global alarm for human health Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) aims to leverage its marketing and research off by replicating ground-breaking new research, into the health benefits of superfine wool for sufferers of skin conditions, across the world.
Last year, clinical trials conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and by the Queensland Institute of Dermatology were released, proving therapeutic benefits of wearing superfine Merino wool for those suffering skin conditions such as eczema.
One of the papers, conducted by Associate Professor John Su from Monash University, titled 'Determining the Effects of Superfine Sheep wool in Infantile Eczema' revealed children who wore superfine wool showed a significant decrease in eczema severity compared to cotton.
The paper was presented at dermatology conferences in Australia, Brazil and France, and has recently been accepted by one of the highest ranking journals in the field, British Journal of Dermatology.
“When comparing with cotton, there are inherent differences in fibre properties, Merino wool’s greater ability to transfer moisture vapour and heat than other major apparel fibres enable it to maintain a more stable microclimate between the skin and garment,” Prof Su said.
This paper, together with the second paper which addresses the myth of wool allergy, will be published mid-year.
During a presentation at Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Outlook conference, AWI fibre advocacy and eco-credentials program manager Angus Ireland said clinical studies into wool’s health benefits were creating new markets for Australian superfine wool.
“People value their health,” Mr Ireland said.
“Less clear is whether people link the garments they wear to their health.
“Is it a coincidence or a fluke that nature over eons created a layer directly next to the skin of sheep and other animals? Clearly it is not.”
He said current research had looked at broader health areas, with improvement to mental health achieved through better sleep, improvement to skin health, with future research focused on improved cognitive and physical benefits for elite sports.
“The clinically significant benefits have been realised by eczema sufferers who wear wool directly next to their skin,” Mr Ireland said.
“The skin is often called the largest organ of the body and skin health potentially represents a really large market for wool.
“But it does have to be the right wool, superfine wool, fabricated into light weight, knitted garments.”
Labeling of the medical specifications are progressing, with the first version expected to be released by the middle of the year.
“The next stage will be a swing tag which will be placed on a garment to help inform purchases on their decisions,” he said.
AWI research general manager Paul Swan said a contributing catalyst for the medical trials was research conducted by Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) from 2007-2014, which lead to the development of the now commercialised Wool ComfortMeter.
“We were looking to develop specifications to guarantee non-irritants of skin,” Dr Swan said.
“What is great about the opportunities being explored are in terms of medical application of our fibre.”