Author: Brian Wu, MD candidate, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA. DermNet New Zealand Editor in Chief: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. December 2016.
The manufacturing of chemicals has a major impact on important industries such as agriculture, but the nature of this work can take a toll on its workers. According to a European Union Study, around one of four cases of occupational dermatoses is related to chemical exposure. Occupational dermatoses affects approximately 4–11 out of every 1000 workers in the chemical industry.
The elevated risk for workers in the chemical industry comes from several important factors:
In developed nations, rates of dermatoses have gone down due to increased automation, changes in chemical manufacturing processes, and better education for employers and employees.
The skin offers a natural defence against pathogens and other potentially harmful substances. However, forces like friction, heat and cold, irritants and allergens can all eventually cause a breach in this natural barrier, leaving it more vulnerable to breakdown and to secondary bacterial skin infections. While occupational skin diseases can affect workers from any sector, some occupations — like work in the chemical industry — put their workers on higher risk.
Occupational skin diseases have an economic impact. The wider economic impact of these disorders largely stems from:
Workers in the chemical industry are at risk for several different kinds of skin diseases.
There are high rates of chemical burns in the chemical industry.
Contact leukoderma or white patches can occur if skin is in contact with phenolic compounds and are a hazard in industries exposed to these.
A thorough workplace risk assessment should identify any problems with poor workplace safety.
Workplace safety guidelines should include:
Due to the dangerous nature of chemical work, different kinds of personal protective equipment might be needed in order to keep employees safe, including:
Taking care of the hands is important for workers in the chemical industry. They can do this by:
Diagnosis of an occupational skin disorder should be based on the following:
Treatment of dermatitis can include:
See the DermNet NZ bookstore.
© 2019 DermNet New Zealand Trust.
DermNet NZ does not provide an online consultation service. If you have any concerns with your skin or its treatment, see a dermatologist for advice.