, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 167-175,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 13 Mar 2012

Skin symptoms in bakery and auto body shop workers: associations with exposure and respiratory symptoms

Abstract

Purpose

Despite the importance of skin exposure, studies of skin symptoms in relation to exposure and respiratory symptoms are rare. The goals of this study were to describe exposure–response relationships for skin symptoms, and to investigate associations between skin and respiratory symptoms in bakery and auto body shop workers.

Methods

Data from previous studies of bakery and auto body shop workers were analyzed. Average exposure estimates for wheat allergen and isocyanates were used. Generalized linear models were constructed to describe the relationships between exposure and skin symptoms, as well as between skin and respiratory symptoms.

Results

Data from 723 bakery and 473 auto body shop workers were analyzed. In total, 5.3 % of bakery and 6.1 % of auto body shop workers were female; subjects’ mean age was 39 and 38 years, respectively. Exposure–response relationships were observed in auto body shop workers for itchy or dry skin (PR 1.55, 95 % CI 1.2–2.0) and work-related itchy skin (PR 1.97, 95 % CI 1.2–3.3). A possible exposure–response relationship for work-related itchy skin in bakery workers did not reach statistical significance. In both groups, reporting skin symptoms was strongly and significantly associated with reporting respiratory symptoms, both work-related and non-work-related.

Conclusions

Exposure–response relationships were observed for skin symptoms in auto body shop workers. The lack of significant exposure–response associations in bakery workers should be interpreted cautiously. Workers who reported skin symptoms were up to four times more likely to report respiratory symptoms. Improved awareness of both skin and respiratory outcomes in exposed workers is needed.