A 25-year-old male, who had worked in a paint manufacturing company for five years, suddenly developed severe dermatitis with ulcers on his feet. He had to take a month’s sick leave and received treatment with strong steroids.
When the problem occurred, he worked in the industrial paints section of one of the world’s largest paint manufacturing company in Sweden. His work involved a lot of manual labour and he handled many hundreds of chemicals including acrylates, which are sensitising chemicals.
On return to work, he was given a new pair of working shoes. This was because managers suspected that he may have spilt chemicals on his old shoes, which he had worn for a year, and the chemical contamination might have contributed to the cause of dermatitis. The employee wore the new shoes without any problems and his dermatitis had subsided. However, the company doctor sent him to a dermatologist to ascertain the actual cause of the dermatitis.
As the employee handled a wide range of irritant and allergic substances, it was practically impossible to form an idea of which substances might have caused the dermatitis. So numerous diagnostic tests, including patch testing of the person using various layers of the old shoes, were carried out. The tests showed that the dermatitis was caused by certain types of acrylates found in various layers of the shoes. The tests confirmed the suspicion of the employers.
When the investigating dermatologist asked the sufferer about the problem he said that when the skin rash first appeared, it itched and he felt shooting pains. He also said that when the ulcers developed it itched even more.
When the doctor explained the cause of the rash the employee said, ‘It felt very good and I was relieved. Now I can avoid certain raw materials at work and by doing this I can still remain at the factory and not have skin problems.’
Case study provided by: Dr M Isaksson, Sweden