Painters, Lacquerers, and Varnishers in Occupational Dermatology

  • Rebecca M. LawEmail author
  • Howard I. Maibach
Reference work entry


Paint constituents have changed over time. Lead toxicity from lead in oil-based paints is less common today but may still be a lingering issue in older parts of early cities. Newer water-based paints are safer but more complex and may contain allergy-inducing ingredients including preservatives. Volatile preservatives of the isothiazolinone class are important causes of contact allergy for painters, with the most significant recent culprit being methylisothiazolinone (MI) and others including methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), octylisothiazolinone (OIT), benzisothiazolinone (BIT), and butylbenzisothiazolinone (BBIT). Many other paint components may also be allergenic. Epoxy resins including epoxy hardeners/curing agents may be sensitizers, with resins derived from diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A (DGEBA-R) having been considered the most important sensitizer. 1,3-Benzenedimethanamine (1,3-BDMA) – also known as m-xylenediamine (MXDA) – is currently considered a significant sensitizer in epoxy hardeners. Painters are at higher risk of developing allergies to paint components. Chronic exposure to paints by painters and consumers (e.g., residential dwellers) is an important cause of contact dermatitis including airborne contact dermatitis. Risk factors for allergy development in painters include environmental factors such as working conditions (room ventilation, room size, appropriate clothing/gloves), painting technique used (brush vs. roller vs. spray), and painter characteristics (hygiene, painting style, age). Worker education/health promotion and awareness of safety hazards are needed to reduce inadvertent skin/mucous membrane contact with paint components. Anatomical sites for painters with occupational contact dermatitis are most often the hands, followed by the face then the legs. Inhalation of airborne paint droplets can cause respiratory symptoms affecting the nose and lungs.


Paint Varnish Lacquer Isothiazolinones Methylisothiazolinone MI Methylchloroisothiazolinone MCI Diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A resin DGEBA-R Isocyanates Hardeners Curing agents Biocides Preservatives Airborne sensitization Cross-sensitization 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Pharmacy and Faculty of MedicineMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.Department of DermatologyUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Department of DermatologyUniversity of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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