Occupational Contact Dermatitis in the Canadian Aircraft Industry

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Abstract

Background

Aircraft building exposes workers to irritant and sensitizing products.

Objective

The aim of this article was to study occupational dermatoses among aircraft workers over 25 years.

Methods

The files of aerospace workers referred between 1990 and 2015 were extracted from the database of the McGill University Health Centre contact dermatitis clinic. These were subdivided according to demographics, type of work, patch testing results, and final diagnosis.

Results

Of 305 workers, 58% were 40 years or younger; one third were women. Onset of dermatitis varied from 2 months to 25 years, but 120 cases (39%) occurred during the first 3 years. Fifty-one percent of the cases involved assemblers, and 27% were composite material technicians, which were overrepresented as they constitute 10% of the workforce. Of the 305 workers, 152 suffered from allergic contact dermatitis, and 96 had irritant contact dermatitis. Of those with allergic contact dermatitis, 124 reacted to epoxy-based workplace products, but only 48 had positive patch tests to commercially available epoxy allergens.

Conclusion

More than 60% of the cases of epoxy allergy would have been missed without testing with workplace products.

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