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Author: Niket Shah, Medical Student, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand. Medical editor: Dr Helen Gordon, Auckland, New Zealand.DermNet NZ Editor in Chief: Adjunct A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. Copy edited by Gus Mitchell. July 2020.
Fibreglass is a man-made fibrous form of glass produced through a process called pultrusion, where multiple products (including sand) are exposed to high temperatures. They are then inserted through small holes to form glass filaments. Fibreglass in itself is a chemically inert substance.
Fibreglass is used in a wide range of industries, as it has excellent thermal, acoustic, and electrical insulation properties. It is also used to reinforce other materials such as plastic.
Fibreglass dermatitis is a form of mechanical irritant contact dermatitis . It is caused by the penetration of the stratum corneum of the skin by small fragments or spicules of fibreglass .
Less frequently, allergic contact dermatitis may develop to the resins that coat the fibreglass fragments .
Fibreglass dermatitis can occur in various occupational settings that involve the creation and use of fibreglass, including:
Occupational and recreational use of fibreglass
Fibreglass dermatitis may affect anyone who has been exposed to direct contact with fibreglass, particularly in an occupational setting.
Non-occupational fibreglass dermatitis includes frictional injury from items manufactured using fibreglass, such as hockey sticks and the skin of surfboards.
High concentrations of airborne fibreglass particles can also cause fibreglass dermatitis .
Fibreglass dermatitis is usually an acute presentation. Chronic fibreglass dermatitis is rare, as tolerance develops to fibreglass with long-term exposure .
Fibreglass dermatitis affects the exposed areas of the face, neck, forearms, and hands. Flexural surfaces such as antecubital fossa and wrists may be particularly troubled due to sweat, increased fibre accumulation, and friction at these sites.
Clinical findings in fibreglass dermatitis may include :
Family members may sometimes develop fibreglass dermatitis if they come in contact with the worker's clothing.
The amount of mechanical irritation to the skin by fibreglass relates to [1–3]:
Detailed clinical history and examination of the patient are essential to determine exposure to fibreglass and other risk factors for developing fibreglass dermatitis.
A skin-stripping test may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Other methods of diagnosis include:
Fibreglass dermatitis may be mistaken for :
Treatment for symptomatic fibreglass dermatitis may involve :
The prognosis of fibreglass dermatitis is variable, depending on the presentation and severity. It may self-resolve within a few days if there are few particles present in the skin. It tends to recur following re-exposure .
Personal protective equipment and clothing for workers are vital to the prevention of fibreglass dermatitis. This may involve the use of gloves, for workers directly handling fibreglass products, and wearing multiple layers of protective clothing. This clothing should be washed separately to avoid any chances of contamination .
Thorough cleaning of occupational environments is essential to remove any residual fibreglass particles and to prevent further exposure.
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