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18-08-2011 | Article

Contact dermatitis ‘a prominent problem’ in cleaners


Free abstract

MedWire News: Around one in three women working as domestic cleaners develop skin allergies as a result of coming into direct contact with chemicals or other noxious substances, research shows.

The study, by German researchers, found that formaldehyde and rubber additives were the most common culprits and call for prevention strategies to address the problem.

For the research, Andrea Bauer (University of Göttingen) and colleagues surveyed 803 female cleaners who attended hospital dermatology clinics after developing contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is a localized irritation of the skin that cause a range of symptoms, from redness and rash to tenderness, itching, pain, and swelling.

It occurs when the skin is exposed to an irritant substance; the main risk factors are frequent contact with water and detergents and prolonged use of rubber gloves.

Of the women studied by Bauer's team, around one-fifth were found to be allergic to were specific chemicals. The most common allergy-inducing substances were nickel sulfate (used in disinfectants) and chemicals found in rubber gloves (such as thiurams, zinc diethyldithiocarbamate, formaldehyde, and mercaptobenzothiazole).

Specific patterns of sensitization to chemicals were similar in younger and older women, the researchers note.

Commenting on their study, which is published in the journal Contact Dermatitis, Bauer and co-workers say that contact allergy is a frequent cause of "occupationally relevant allergic reactions."

"Our findings are highly relevant, as allergic contact dermatitis is a prominent problem in the cleaning industry," they write.

"Our findings may help in the elimination of relevant allergens from the workplace and in the development of targeted primary and secondary prevention strategies."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford