By: Melissa Garcia
The skin is the heaviest organ in the human body. It is also very vulnerable to injury. One of the main risks to the skin is dermatitis. Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin. It is sometimes called eczema. The main symptoms can include itching, cracking, blistering and ulceration. If someone has dermatitis the skin often looks red, sore and scaly. There are many different types of dermatitis but one of the main causes of the illness developing is contact with substances used at work. Every year 80,000 people suffer from skin problems caused, or made worse by work. These can be avoided.
There are two main types of dermatitis that can be caused by work. The first is called irritant contact dermatitis. This condition arises from working with substances that physically damage the skin when they came into contact with it. Among the chemicals that can cause this type of damage are many in common use such as acids and alkalis and organic solvents can dissolve the skin’s protective layer of oils, leaving it dry, cracked and vulnerable. Some strong irritants can cause immediate damage, resulting in serious skin burns. Many weaker substances may require days of contact before there is any visible effect. The second main type of dermatitis is called allergic contact dermatitis. This accounts for about 20 per cent of all forms of work-related dermatitis and is caused by certain chemicals called ‘sensitisors’. This is where the body’s immune system reacts to one of these substances. In many cases someone can work with a substance for years without any reaction and then suddenly develop dermatitis.
Anyone can get dermatitis, but it is more common in certain jobs. Some unison members, such as nurses, laboratory workers, some craft workers, cooks and cleaners are all far more likely to develop dermatitis than the general population. This is because of the chemicals and substances they work with and also...