The importance of occupational skin diseases in the United States
Occupational skin diseases and disorders (OSDs) are the most commonly reported non-trauma-related (acute or cumulative) category of occupational illnesses in the United States. This factor, along with their potential chronicity, their effect on an individual's vocational and avocational activities, and the fact that they are preventable, point out the public health importance of OSDs. It can be difficult to obtain accurate epidemiological data for OSDs in the US, and all sources have their limitations. OSD cases that result in days away from work are important categories to study, since days away from work may be used as an indicator of the severity of a case. Descriptive epidemiology may be used to provide further information on these "more severe" cases, to determine, for example, high-risk industries, occupations, and exposures, and then to use this information to target the high-risk, "more severe" cases for prevention strategies. The goal of the US Public Health Service for the year 2010, as established in its "Healthy People 2010: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives", is to reduce national OSDs to an incidence of no more than 46 per 100,000 full-time workers. Both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis are considered to be priority research areas as outlined in the National Occupational Research Agenda introduced in 1996 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Increased knowledge and awareness of occupational skin diseases will assist in the achievement of the national public health goals.
KeywordsSkin diseases Dermatitis Occupational Epidemiology
Funding support: this article fits the description in the US Copyright Act of 1976 of a "US government work." It was written as a part of my official duties as a government officer. Therefore, it cannot be copyrighted. Portions of this chapter were previously published as US government works.
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