Job-related dermatitis is one of the most common occupational
diseases, and can occur in virtually any type of job. It stems from a
reaction to substances that act as irritants or allergens, and that
can produce a rash or other skin condition ranging from mild and
temporary to severe and long-term.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health, one of the US government's watchdogs over workplace safety,
dermatitis severe enough to get reported as an occupational injury
occurs in about 1 in 20,000 workers in all industries, and occurs most
frequently in farming and related occupations:
Worker Health Chartbook, 2004
Figure 2?215. Incidence rate of dermatitis cases by private industry sector, 2001.
For dermatitis cases, private industry reported an incidence rate of
0.5 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2001. Higher rates were reported
for agriculture, forestry, and fishing (1.3), manufacturing (0.7),
transportation and public utilities (0.7), and services (0.6).
Keep in mind, though, that these are statistics for cases that get
reported to authorities -- there are many more cases of occupational
dermatitis that never get formally reported.
Another NIOSH page provides a straightforward overview of the
prevalance of dermatitis:
Allergic and irritant dermatitis (contact dermatitis) is
overwhelmingly the most important cause of occupational skin diseases,
which account for 15% to 20% of all reported occupational diseases.
There is virtually no occupation or industry without potential
exposure to the many diverse agents that cause allergic and irritant
A wonderfully detailed summary of the information that is known about
dermatitis in the workplace is provided by the health authorities of
the Canadian government. They report on the two main types of
dermatitis, known as contact dermatitis, and allergic dermatitis
(although truth be told, it is often difficult to distinguish between
Dermatitis, Irritant Contact
I've provided some pertinent excerpts from this site, below, but I
encourage you to look over the full page, as it contains a wealth of
What is occupational irritant contact dermatitis?
Dermatitis is a localized inflammation of the skin. In general,
inflammation refers to a condition in the body when it is trying to
react to a localized injury of tissues. Signs of inflammation include
some or all of the following: redness, heat, swelling, pain.
How does irritant contact dermatitis develop?
In the workplace, irritant contact dermatitis can develop after a
short, heavy exposure or a repeated or prolonged, low exposure to a
substance. The appearance of irritant contact dermatitis varies
considerably according to the conditions of exposure. For example, an
accidental contact with a strong irritant causes immediate blisters.
Contact with a mild irritant may only produce redness of the skin.
However, if the irritation continues, small lesions or sores appear on
the reddened area; afterwards crusts and scales form. The skin damage
usually heals a few weeks after exposure ends if no complications have
arisen (e.g., no infections occurred).
What are factors contributing to irritant contact dermatitis?
Factors contributing to irritation include
--the chemical properties of the substance (for example, is it an
acid, an alkali, or a salt),
--the amount and concentration of chemical coming in contact with the skin, and
--the length and frequency of the exposure.
--Factors peculiar to individual workers are also important.
Hereditary factors influence the variety of reactions seen in
different persons when exposed to the same irritant.
[NOTE from pafalafa-ga: See Table 1, "Factors Contributing to the
Development of Skin Irritation" for a more detailed description of the
factors involved, including workplace conditions such as heat,
What occupations are at risk?
Table 2 lists some occupations where irritant contact dermatitis has
been seen. Table 2 also gives examples of workplace chemicals that can
cause irritant contact dermatitis; however, this list is not intended
to be comprehensive. New materials and processes can present workers
with chemical exposures and risks that they have not experienced
Irritants Encountered in Various Occupations
Artificial fertilizers, disinfectants, pesticides, cleaners, gasoline,
diesel oil, plants and grains
Solvents, clay, plaster
Automobile and aircraft industry workers:
Solvents, cutting oils, paints, hand cleansers
Bakers and confectioners:
Detergents, wet work
Detergents, meat, waste
Cabinet makers, and carpenters:
Glues, detergents, thinners, solvents, wood preservatives
[See the table itself for the full list of occupations and irritants]
What are the preventive measures?
Occupational irritant contact dermatitis can be avoided by the following measures:
--substitution of a less harmful substance
--enclosure of the process
--automation of the work procedures
--local exhaust ventilation systems
--barrier creams, skin cleansers
--convenient washing facilities
A similar document for the closely-related (and less frequent)
condition of allergic dermatitis is here:
Dermatitis, Allergic Contact
What is occupational contact dermatitis?
Occupational contact dermatitis is a local inflammation of the skin.
Symptoms of inflammation are itching, pain, redness, swelling, and the
formation of small blisters or wheals (itchy, red circles with a white
centre) on the skin. The inflammation is caused by an allergy or
irritation as a result of substances found in the workplace that come
into direct contact with the skin. This document explains allergic
How does allergic contact dermatitis develop?
Allergic contact dermatitis associated with the workplace develops in
stages. There is a period during which an individual may be
continually in contact with allergenic substances without developing
any skin reaction. This can last a lifetime or only a few days. The
allergenic action of a substance depends on its ability to change some
properties of the outer layer of the skin. This layer acts as a
protective barrier against toxic substances. Some substances can
remove fats, oils and water from the outer layer of the skin. These
substances diminish the protective action of the skin and make it
easier for substances to penetrate the skin.
[NOTE: There is a very similar list provided of occupations and
culprit materials, but the list of materials can be quite different
for allergic dermatitis than for irritant dermatitis, as these
Rubber, oats, barley, animal feed, veterinary medications, cement,
plants, pesticides, wood preservatives
Turpentine, pigments, dyes, colophony, epoxy resin
Automobile and aircraft industry workers:
Chromates, nickel, cobalt, rubber, epoxy and dimethacrylate resins
Bakers and confectioners:
Flavours and spices, orange, lemon, essential oils, dyes, ammonium
persulphate and benzoyl peroxide.
Orange, lemon, lime, flavours
Glues, resins, leathers
Cabinet makers and carpenters:
Stains, glues, woods, turpentine, varnishes, colophony
A good general write-up on occupational dermatitis is here:
and there are many detailed studies of occupational dermatitis in
specific industries, such as this one among animal feed mill workers:
Occupational dermatitis in animal feed mill workers
Similar studies are available for many other occupations. Let me know
if there is a specific job category of interest to you, and I'll be
happy to search to see what studies may be available.
I trust this information fully answers your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If you would like any additional information, just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further,
and I'm at your service.
All the best,
search strategy -- Google search on [ occupational dermatitis ]