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Risks and causes of OSD

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 13 million individuals could potentially be exposed at their jobs to chemicals that are absorbed by skin. This is an especially salient issue for the many Pennsylvania residents employed in the food service, cosmetology and healthcare workplaces, where the incidence of skin exposure is highest, authorities say.

Reportedly, occupational skin diseases are the second most frequent type of illness obtained at the workplace. They manifest in a variety of forms, including skin injuries, infections and cancers. Sometimes, an occupational skin disease, or OSD, related to chemical exposure leads to other skin diseases.

Also referred to as eczema, contact dermatitis is a skin disease estimated to cost more than $1 billion a year in collective treatment. Accounting for about 90 percent of all OSD cases, it is the most frequently reported OSD. The disease causes inflammation in the skin, and symptoms may include pain, swelling and scaly, flaky skin.

Authorities state that the primary cause of OSD is the use of chemical agents, both sensitizers and direct irritants. However, it is important to note that certain physical and biological agents can cause an OSD. For example, radiation, a physical agent can be dangerous to workers' skin. The same holds true for biological agents such as microorganisms and parasites.

Although skin diseases represent a common type of workplace injury, most efforts to mitigate originating exposures in the workplace focus on agents that are inhaled. In any case, Pennsylvania workers who have contracted an OSD while on the job may be entitled to restitution for medical expenses and other OSD-related costs. Many such workers develop a plan of action after discussing their case with a workers' compensation attorney.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Skin Exposures & Effects", December 29, 2014

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