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Epidemiology of Skin Disease in an Automobile Factory
  1. Muriel L. Newhouse
  1. Department of Occupational Health and Applied Physiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


    A survey was made of a random sample of workers from the machine shops, assembly lines, and stock and store departments of an automobile factory. Among the 1,223 men seen, representing 97% of the sample, the prevalence of non-infective skin diseases was 14·5%. Skin diseases were classified into four groups: `dermatitis' and `folliculitis' of occupational origin, endogenous `eczemas', and miscellaneous skin diseases. Slightly more than half of all the skin diseases seen were considered to be occupational in origin.

    In this population the prevalence of skin disease was more than four times that based on patients attending the factory medical department.

    An unsuspected cause of allergic dermatitis was found on the assembly lines, where the incidence of dermatitis was significantly higher than among the non-production workers. The prevalence of folliculitis was significantly higher among production than non-production workers. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of `eczema' or the miscellaneous skin diseases in the various occupational groups.

    Among European workers fair men were more prone to skin disease than darker men. In another factory, a West Indian and Asiatic group of workers had a significantly lower prevalence of skin diseases than a group of Europeans doing similar work.

    Folliculitis was more prevalent among the younger workers and those recently employed in the factory; there was no obvious association between age and length of service and the occurrence of other types of skin disease.

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    • * This survey was supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council and formed part of a thesis submitted for the M.D. of the University of London.