Over 13 million workers in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States may be exposed to chemicals that can enter the body through the skin. Such exposure to dangerous agents can cause a wide range of occupational disorders and diseases. These include systemic toxicity and occupational skin diseases.

Because the focus of managing exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace has been on inhalation instead of skin exposure, there are currently inadequate standardized methods for evaluating and measuring skin exposures. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has created a strategy for categorizing multiple skin notations that can define the direct, systemic and immune-mediated effects that result from the skin being in contact with chemicals.

Occupational skin disease ranks as second for the most-frequently occurring occupational disease. It has several forms, including skin cancer, skin infections, irritant contact dermatitis, skin injuries, allergic contact dermatitis and more. Contact dermatitis is one of the most prevalent types of occupational illnesses and costs over $1 billion each year.

People who perform certain types of work are at risk of being exposed to hazardous agents. They include individuals who work in industries like agriculture, health care, painting, cosmetology, construction, cleaning and printing. As the body’s largest organ, the skin makes up over 10 percent of body mass. Its function includes shock absorption, tactile sensation, protections, water preservation, temperature control, waterproofing, synthesizing of vitamin D, lubrication and reserving calories.

Individuals who have been injured at work or have developed an occupational disease due to unsafe working conditions should consult with a personal injury attorney. The attorney may assist with filing a workers’ compensation claim or appealing denied claims and inadequate settlement amounts. The workers’ compensation benefits may be used for medical expenses, rehabilitation and lost wages.