More than 13 million workers around the country are exposed to potentially toxic substances in the workplace each year, and skin conditions are the second most common kind of occupational diseases, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. These illnesses, that many Pennsylvania workers have contracted, range from mild conditions like contact dermatitis that respond well to antibiotics to possibly life-threatening diseases like skin cancer.

Contact dermatitis accounts for at least 90 percent of the occupational skin condition cases in the United States according to NIOSH, and about eight out of 10 of the workers affected become sick after being exposed to an irritant of some kind. Workplace irritants include chemical compounds that can provoke severe allergic reactions and biological agents like parasites and animal waste. The hands are the part of the body most often affected, and prolonged exposure and preexisting skin conditions are among the most common aggravating factors.

Skin conditions are not easy to contain or prevent because the spills and splashes that often cause them are difficult to predict. Employers may be able to reduce their risks by switching to less toxic substances whenever possible and keeping workplaces clean and properly ventilated. NIOSH says that a proactive approach to skin diseases is especially important in high-risk industries like health care, cosmetology and construction.

Attorneys with experience in occupational disease cases may consult with dermatologists and other medical experts when their clients have had severe allergic reactions. They could also take steps to have homes and vehicles ruled out as the source of the toxic substance responsible. This is because employers sometimes contest workers’ compensation claims when workers have had unusual allergic reactions.