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An investigation of factors involved in dermal irritation at a produce packaging facility.

Methner M; Kawamoto M
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 10-15, 2003, Dallas, Texas. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2003 May; :64
Workers who re-pack tomatoes (and other produce) for distribution to grocery stores reported skin rashes. Workers initially associated skin irritation with handling either produce or ink-coated cardboard boxes. NIOSH investigators collected bulk samples of cardboard as well as dust from the surface of the cardboard. Cardboard samples were analyzed for 30 elemental metals and organic compounds via Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Absorption and Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry, respectively. Polarized light microscopy (PLM) of the bulk dust sample was performed to determine the morphology of the particulate. The relative abundance of the dominant metals contained within the ink matrix were: sodium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron. Additionally, di(propyleneglycol) propyl ether was the dominant organic compound found in the ink. The particulate matter was composed primarily of 85% fibrous material. The majority of the fiber shapes were in the sub-angular to sub-rounded category. NIOSH physicians interviewed and examined 40 workers and found that 13% had mild lesions that were possibly related to work activities while 7.5% exhibited mild skin conditions that were possibly aggravated by work activities. An additional 15% reported symptoms but had no visible lesions. All but 3 workers' lesions or symptoms appeared related to handling tomatoes. Two workers reported cilantro allergy. Only one worker had a lesion possibly related to handling boxes, but more than half the workers (58%) reported the use of gloves when folding boxes. All of the substances found in the ink, either singly or in combination, could produce or exacerbate skin symptoms and lesions. In conclusion, all workers handling produce and/or boxes should wear protective gloves to prevent skin contact with tomatoes, cilantro, or ink as well as increase the frequency of hand/arm washing during the workday.
Dermatitis; Irritants; Work-environment; Workers; Skin-irritants; Dust-particles; Dust-sampling; Dusts; Particulate-dust; Particulates; Gas-chromatography; Mass-spectrometry; Skin-lesions; Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-processes; Agricultural-products; Organic-compounds; Organic-pigments; Skin-disorders; Dermatosis; Dyes; Allergens; Allergic-dermatitis; Allergies
7440-23-5; 7439-95-4; 7440-09-7; 7440-50-8; 7439-89-6
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 10-15, 2003, Dallas, Texas
Page last reviewed: September 3, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division