We live in a chemically dependent world where we are frequently exposed to substances that can irritate our skin. Millions of people unwittingly expose themselves to toxic chemicals, noxious pesticides and a plethora of poisonous potions every day. Non-organic cleaning products can contain ammonia, chlorine bleach and other hazardous ingredients. Exposure evidences as skin inflammation that can induce redness, heat, pain and swelling.
Agricultural and forestry workers, as well as home gardeners, encounter a wide array of toxins. During mixing and application of pesticides, herbicides and preservatives, the chemicals can spill or splash on the skin. Extreme care should be used when handling caustic chemicals, including eye and skin protection. Protective goggles, a protective apron and rubber gloves should be worn whenever chemical products are applied.
Contact dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) is common in persons who constantly have their hands in cleaning solutions. "Dishpan hands" is a term applied when the hands are often in contact with hot water and detergent. Chemicals in the detergent strip the skin of oils (stratum corneum lipids). When constant contact overwhelms the body's ability compensate, dry, scaly, red or irritated skin can develop.
The amount of effect a chemical has on the skin and the amount of discomfort experienced by the person exposed varies. Minor chemical exposure such as the concentration found in most dish soap may cause discomfort and redness and irritation. Strong household cleaners which contain bleach, ammonia or other toxins will cause more pronounced reactions and skin involvement. Intense concentrations or chemical solutions can burn the skin severely.
Rubber gloves are worn to protect the skin to avoid chemical exposure, however many people experience contact dermatitis when exposed to natural latex rubber.
Sulfur, methomyl, maneb, captafol, folpet, kelthane, dinitro benomyl, endosulfan, organophosphates, lindane, zineb, chlorothalonil, ziram, toxaphene, chloropicin, thiram, triazine and glyphosate are but a few of the chemicals that can cause skin irritations. Many are unstable and can cause severe chemical burns if in contact with the skin. Handle with extreme caution.
Skin Injury From Chemicals
Skin injury may be mild or severe depending on the amount of exposure. Dermatitis caused by chemical substances (like caustic acids and sodas) that come in direct contact with the skin (primary irritant dermatitis) present symptoms similar to a burn. The symptoms may vary from a light burn (mild pain, itching and redness) to a severe burn with blisters or peeling and open wounds or ulcerations. The skin in direct contact with the chemical will be the most affected, however adjoining skin may be inflamed.
Treatment Of Chemical Burns
Basic treatment of chemical burns consists of removal of the irritating substance by washing the skin and prevention of further contact with the offending chemical. Over-the-counter steroid creams (such as 0.5 percent hydrocortisone) are used to alleviate burning, itching and pain. The area should be kept clean and dry to prevent infection. Severe chemical burns should be immediately treated by a physician.