An epidemiological study of occupational contact eczema in a furniture factory is presented. The localization, distribution, and clinical features of the skin lesions were characteristic of contact eczema caused by a sensitizing or irritating dust. True teak—Tectona grandis—was the cause of the skin condition.
That teak is a fairly potent sensitizer and also contains primary irritants is fully confirmed by the present study. About half the employees who were heavily exposed to teak dust suffered from eczema and/or severe itching. Only 8% of those with slight exposure to teak dust experienced skin symptoms.
Patch tests with native teak dust moistened with water were applied on 10 “controls” and 112 workers who were exposed to teak in various working procedures. Moistened teak dust produced toxic reactions in 20·5%, while native teak dust did not have primary irritant effects and was, therefore, considered to be the substance of choice for patch testing; 18·7% of the workers showed an allergic skin reaction to native teak dust. The diagnosis of allergic contact eczema was made in 12·5%, and 6·2% were considered to have latent allergy. Primary irritant (contact) eczema was considered to be present in four individuals who had experienced acute, transitory, eczematous eruptions during the hot part of the summer when they perspired freely. In these cases the patch test to native teak dust was negative. Desensitization or “hardening” was observed in four workers. In most cases the skin lesions were not severe enough to cause sickness absence.
The cause of the relatively high percentage of sensitization to teak among the workers in the factory is discussed. The importance of suitable prophylactic measures is stressed.
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An Epidemiological Investigation in a Furniture Factory
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