Melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) can be selectively destroyed by certain workplace chemicals. Paler or completely white patches of skin result (leucoderma/vitiligo). Most cases in the general population are of unknown cause. Around one percent of adults suffer from it. Several cases of leucoderma in one factory should arouse suspicion that there may be a work-related cause.
Some chemicals reported to have had this effect occupationally are:
- alkyl catechols;
- alkyl phenols.
Cases have been described in many occupational groups including chemical workers, engineering workers (from oil), automobile workers (from adhesive) and even hospital personnel (from germicide).