Wet work and its health effects attracted much attention at the conference “Occupational and Environmental Exposures of Skin to Chemicals - 2005”, which was held in Stockholm, Sweden 12-15 June 2005. The experts agreed that the harmful effects from wet work affecting large parts of the population have been neglected far too long and that action is needed.
Household cleaning, dish washing, food preparation, work in the heath care sector, hair dressing and metal work are important risk factors for hand eczema. The skin becomes red, swollen and itching. Hand eczema due to wet work may cause chronic suffering, change of jobs, sick leave and dramatically reduced quality of life. 15% of women, and 10% of men are affected by hand eczema. Women are more affected, as they are more exposed to wet work.
Doctor Anne Schmidt from Germany gave a presentation on wet work as the most important risk factor for occupational skin disease. “Skin disease due to wet work is a paradox, since the frequency of the problem is high, the risk factors are known and well described, and the preventive measures are obvious and simple,” says Anne Schmidt. “In Germany, there are now indications that a regulation limiting wet work has resulted in reduction of occupational hand eczema in some sectors.”
Professor Pieter-Jan Coenraads from the Netherlands presented new data, showing that multiple short exposures to wet work may be worse than single long exposures. Thus, frequent hand washing may cause more dermatitis than immersing the hands in water for an hour.
Reduction of frequent and intense exposure of hands to water, detergents and soaps is one of the most important preventive measures for prevention of hand eczema, a very common problem. It is essential that employers and those responsible for working conditions in work places will recognize the problem and their responsibility.
For further information, visit the conference website: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/skin/OEESC2/conference_info.html
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