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Occupational Skin Diseases Due to Irritants and Allergens at a Glance
  • Skin disorders are the second most commonly reported occupational disease, accounting for approximately 20% of occupational disorders.
  • Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis comprise a significant number of cases of occupational skin disease. The majority involve workers in the manufacturing and service industries.
  • Chronic cumulative irritant contact dermatitis is the most common form of occupational irritant contact dermatitis.
  • Approximately 80% of individuals with occupational contact dermatitis have hand involvement.
  • Patch testing should be performed to rule out an allergic contact dermatitis in all cases in which an initial chronic irritant dermatitis is suspected.

Occupational dermatoses are any abnormal conditions of the skin caused or aggravated by substances or processes associated with the work environment. Occupational skin diseases (OSDs) are a major public health problem because they are common, are often chronic, and have significant economic impact on society and on workers.1 A thorough knowledge of potential irritants, allergens, and other causative factors in the workplace, as well as the workers’ compensation system, is essential for the dermatologist dealing with occupational dermatoses.

 Paracelsus (1498–1541), in his Morbis Metallicus, was the first to write about OSD, including changes in the skin caused by salt compounds. Agricola described deep skin ulcers in his book about metalworkers at the same time. Ramazzini (1700), the father of modern occupational medicine, made observations about OSD in his classical work De Morbis Artificium Diatriba. Sir Percival Pott (1775) described carcinoma of the scrotum among chimney sweeps; at the same time other authors described and studied OSD and contact dermatitis. Earlier texts include Prosser White's The Dermatergoses or Occupational Afflictions of the Skin (1915), and Schwartz, Tulipan, and Birmingham's Occupational Diseases of the Skin (1957). Selected current resources for more in-depth information are listed in eTable 211-0.1.

eTable 211-0.1 Selected Sources for Review of Occupational Skin Diseases

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