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Contact dermatitis in the cleaning industry

Bauer, Andrea

Current Opinion in Allergy & Clinical Immunology:
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e328364ec21
SKIN ALLERGY: Edited by Torsten Zuberbier and Thomas Werfel

Purpose of review: The review summarizes recent findings on contact dermatitis in the cleaning industry.

Recent findings: Contact dermatitis is still an important issue in cleaning. Recent studies identified cleaning work sites and tasks, as well as specific cleaning products, which incur a risk increase for occupational contact dermatitis in cleaning. Workers involved in cleaning outdoors prevalence ratio [PR 1.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.16–2.96], cleaning common areas of residential buildings (PR 1.77, 95% CI 1.11–2.84), schools (PR 1.84, 95% CI 1.15–2.93) and cleaning building sites (PR 1.87, 95% CI 1.18–2.95) showed significantly higher rates of contact dermatitis. Relevant allergens in cleaning are rubber chemicals and disinfectants. Leading allergens are thiurams (11.6%, 95% CI 9.1–14.1) and formaldehyde (3.4%, 95% CI 2.0–4.7), but contact with metal allergens might also be important. The most likely allergen sources for sensitization against rubber chemicals are protective gloves. High sensitization rates for disinfectants might result from the fact that employees in cleaning often use single-use medical examination gloves while cleaning. These gloves are not resistant to chemicals, which may break through the gloves within a short period of time, depending on glove material and thickness. No differences in sensitization rates and sensitization profiles were seen in cleaners of younger (≤40 years) and older (>40 years) age.

Summary: Prevalence of occupational contact dermatitis is still high in cleaning. Irritant contact dermatitis is prevailing, but allergic contact dermatitis is quite frequent, too. Up to now, prevention strategies in cleaning seem to be insufficient.

Author Information

Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Technical University Dresden, Dresden, Germany

Correspondence to Andrea Bauer, Professor, MD, MPH, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Technical University Dresden, Fetscherstr. 74, 01307 Dresden, Germany. Tel: +49 351 45812131; fax: +49 351 4584338; e-mail:

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