Skin problems among textile workers

Author: Brian Wu PhD. MD Candidate, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA; Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, January 2016.

The textile industry is an important employer for workers across the globe, especially in developing countries. However, the occupation carries a high risk for the development of occupational dermatitis.

For instance, one study of textile workers found 29% of participants surveyed had allergic contact dermatitis, while another 38% had irritant contact dermatitis, making skin conditions a widespread problem.

Why are textile workers at risk for occupational skin disorders?

There are several factors which increase the risk of textile workers for developing occupational skin disorders, including:

Understanding occupational skin disease

The skin barrier is an important part of the body’s immune system and acts as a natural barrier to a wide variety of substances that can cause irritation, allergic reactions and infections. The risk of skin disorders increases when the skin barrier is compromised by injury or disease. Textile workers, are at high risk for skin disease due to the nature of their work.

The main occupational risk for textile workers is contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis in textile workers most often results in hand dermatitis. Signs may include:

Severely affected patients can present with widespread eczema and erythroderma.

How is contact dermatitis diagnosed?

Careful history indicating exposure to potential contact irritants and allergens, and examination confirming dermatitis, should be followed by careful patch testing to the baseline series of allergens and to textile dyes.

Positive patch tests demonstrate contact allergy to a specific allergen.

Workplace risk assessment

Workplace risk assessment is uneven throughout the textile industry. Assessment should ideally take into account:

Personal protective equipment

The use of personal protective equipment such as gloves and protective clothing can reduce the exposure to irritants and allergens. However, latex gloves can cause dermatitis due to the development of latex sensitivity and contact allergy to rubber accelerants, so non-latex gloves are recommended.

Diagnosis and treatment of occupational skin disorders

Diagnosis of occupational skin disorders should be based on:

Treatment of occupational skin disorders can include:

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