OCCUPATIONAL RASHES

What substances are most likely to be responsible for job-related rashes?
—Ann M. Roberson, DO, Quincy, Ill.

Contact dermatitis in the workplace can be either irritant or allergic. Irritants can be divided into weak and strong types. Weak irritants require frequent multiple exposures, often over prolonged periods, the result being termed “chronic irritant contact dermatitis.” Chronic irritants include a wide range of substances, such as weak acids and alkalis, soaps, detergents, organic solvents, and water-based metalworking fluids (soluble oils). Mechanical friction can also act as a chronic irritant. Allergic contact sensitizing substances commonly include formaldehyde, biocides, hardwoods, plants (e.g., chrysanthemums, daffodils, tulips), and nickel.
—Jeffrey M. Weinberg, MD (106-6)

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