Occupational Contact Dermatitis in North American Production Workers Referred for Patch Testing: Retrospective Analysis of Cross-Sectional Data From the North American Contact Dermatitis Group 1998 to 2014

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Little is known about the epidemiology of contact dermatitis in production workers (PWs).


The aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence of contact dermatitis and characterize clinically relevant and occupationally related allergens among North American PWs undergoing patch testing.


This was a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of North American Contact Dermatitis Group data from 1998 to 2014.


Of 39,332 patch-tested patients, 2732 (7.0%) were PWs. Among PWs, most were men (62.4%) and white (83.9%). A history of childhood eczema was uncommon (11.3%). Prevalent occupations included machine operators (27.3%); fabricators, assemblers, and hand-working occupations (16.8%); and precision metalworking occupations (16.1%). The most frequent sites of dermatitis were the hands (53.8%) and arms (29.4%), which were significantly more commonly affected compared with non-PWs (P < 0.0001). Occupationally related skin disease, allergic contact dermatitis, and irritant contact dermatitis were also significantly more common in PWs (49.9% vs 10.6%, 58.9% vs 53.7%, and 32.7% vs 25.7%, respectively; all Ps < 0.0001). Epoxy (15.3%), thiuram mix (8.3%), carba mix (8.1%), formaldehyde (6.3%), and cobalt (5.9%) were the most frequent occupationally related allergens. The top allergen sources included adhesives/glues (16.0%), metalworking fluids/cutting oils (6.8%), and coatings (6.3%).


Production workers had a high rate of occupationally related skin disease, as well as irritant and allergic contact dermatitis. Involvement of exposed body areas was common. Frequently identified allergens included adhesives/glues, rubber accelerators, metals, and preservatives.

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