BACKGROUND - Acute irritant contact dermatitis induced by cutaneous exposure to chemicals is a common dermatologic problem in the workplace. In severe cases, irritant contact responses can result in a caustic burn. Chemical burn induced by concentrated sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in bleach) has been reported infrequently in the literature, with no previously reported cases of chemical burn due to an alkyl sulfate (a common surfactant in cleaning fluids). Here we describe a chemical burn in a 16-year-old girl resulting from exposure to a solution of concentrated sodium hypochlorite and alkyl sulfate applied as a sanitizer to the interior of roller skates worn at work.
OBSERVATIONS - The diagnosis was made on the basis of the patient's exposure history, clinical appearance, and laboratory results. On physical examination, the erythematous plaque, located at the site of chemical exposure, had intact skin lines, surrounding edema, and decreased sensitivity to touch. The peripheral white blood cell count was within normal limits and bacterial and fungal cultures from the lesion were negative.
CONCLUSIONS - The irritant effect of exposure to chemicals, including those that usually are not major irritants, and the possible additive effect of simultaneous exposure to different chemicals, should be considered in the differential diagnosis of acute dermatitis of unknown etiology. Moreover, increased reporting of cases of chemical-induced acute irritant contact dermatitis will help lead to crucial early and appropriate treatment.