How common chemicals — including those in bed sheets — can boost eczema risk

“We haven’t had a full night’s sleep since our son was born eight years ago,” said Mrs. B, pointing to her son’s dry, red and itchy skin.

Her son has had eczema his entire life. Also known as atopic dermatitis, this chronic skin disease affects about 1 in 5 children in the industrialized world. Some studies have found rates of eczema in developing nations to be over thirtyfold lower compared with industrialized nations.