Occupational irritant contact dermatitis diagnosed by analysis of contact irritants and allergens in the work environment

Contact Dermatitis. 2014 Dec;71(6):364-70. doi: 10.1111/cod.12290. Epub 2014 Oct 10.


Background: Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) is a common diagnosis in patients with occupational contact dermatitis (OCD). Studies are lacking on the usefulness of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) in making the diagnosis of ICD.

Objective: To characterize irritant exposures leading to the diagnosis of occupational ICD (OICD), and to evaluate the occurrence of concomitant exposures to contact allergens.

Methods: We included 316 patients with suspected occupational hand dermatitis, referred to the Department of Dermato-Allergology, Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, Denmark during January 2010-August 2011, in a programme consisting of a clinical examination, exposure assessment, and extensive patch/prick testing.

Results: OCD was diagnosed in 228 patients. Of these patients, 118 were diagnosed with OICD. The main irritant exposures identified were wet work (n = 64), gloves (n = 45), mechanical traumas (n = 19), and oils (n = 15). Exposure to specific irritant chemicals was found in 9 patients, and was identified from MSDSs/ingredients labelling in 8 of these patients. Review of MSDSs and ingredients labelling showed that 41 patients were exposed to 41 moderate to potent contact allergens, and 18 patients were exposed to 25 weak workplace contact allergens.

Conclusion: In the present study, the systematic exposure assessment did not reveal any new irritants. MSDSs have a limited role in the investigation of ICD.

Keywords: exposure analysis; irritants; occupational; occupational irritant contact dermatitis; systematic exposure assessment; systematic stepwise exposure assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / etiology
  • Female
  • Hand Dermatoses / chemically induced
  • Hand Dermatoses / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Irritants / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Patch Tests


  • Allergens
  • Irritants