The American Academy of Dermatology has designated November as National Healthy Skin Month. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational skin diseases are the second most common type of occupational disease. In 2001, there were approximately 39,000 reported cases of occupational skin disease; accounting for about 12% of all occupational diseases. It is a pervasive problem that affects every kind of workplace from factories and repair shops to hospitals and farm fields. Continuing advancements in science provide more and better tools for identifying and preventing these disorders. They also can help us better assess and address the role of skin absorption as a pathway for toxic chemicals to enter the body. This issue of eNews focuses on NIOSH research and surveillance efforts to develop and use such tools vigorously and strategically.
Field and Laboratory Research Focused on Skin Exposure
NIOSH research on skin exposure combines field studies with basic science laboratory testing to develop new methods for measuring exposure and new technologies for preventing those exposures. Research includes identifying ways to prevent auto mechanics' dermal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; developing better techniques to measure beryllium particles contaminating the skin surface and to determine the extent of skin penetration by these particles; developing prediction models for chemical penetration through the skin; and relating skin sensitization potential to molecular structure using quantitative structure activity relationships (QSARs).
Health Hazard Evaluations Focused on Skin Exposure
NIOSH conducts Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs) at the request of employees and employers concerned about health hazards in their workplace. From October 1999 to January 2002, NIOSH conducted 215 skin related HHEs, including paper mill workers with dermatitis from biocides and microbes in paper pulp and dermatitis in workers who handle and package vegetables. As an example of the value of HHEs for identifying and addressing emerging workplace health concerns, NIOSH conducted an HHE at the request of the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives regarding staff concerns about handling irradiated mail following the anthrax attacks of 2001. To view the HHE Reports, go to http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/.
The NORA Allergic and Irritant Dermatitis Team
The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Allergic and Irritant Dermatitis (AID) Team is comprised of NIOSH researchers and external partners from academia, labor, industry and other federal agencies. The AID Team mission is to develop a broad-based, active, and lasting group to catalyze research in AID with research concentrated in three priority categories: basic biomedical sciences, clinical epidemiology and surveillance, exposure and risk assessment and prevention. Accomplishments include organizing and sponsoring meetings within the occupational safety and health and dermatology community. Additionally, the team has funded several external projects and one interdivisional intramural research project. To learn more about the AID Team, go to http://www2a.cdc.gov/nora/noratopictemp.asp?rscharea=aid or contact Boris Lushniak at email@example.com.
The NORA Dermal Exposure Research Program
The NORA Dermal Exposure Research Program promotes the development of improved NIOSH policies and recommendations for identifying and controlling harmful exposures to the skin based on laboratory and field studies. This research program is one of three NORA funded interdisciplinary cross-divisional programs. There are currently eight projects and two supporting core projects being conducted, ranging from biomonitoring to developing engineering controls. To learn more, visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/skin/skinresearch.html or contact Sid Soderholm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skin Exposure Topic Page Updated
The NIOSH Safety and Health Topic webpage on Skin Exposures and Effects has recently been updated. Information accessible through this page includes links to NIOSH publications and peer-reviewed research articles, a database of skin-related topic links, proceedings of an international conference and an updated slideshow presentation for physicians on occupational dermatoses. To access the webpage, go to http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/skin/skinpg.html.