One of the most common construction materials is concrete with more than a million workers in various occupations using it regularly. However, not many people are aware that exposure to wet concrete poses some risks. If you use concrete in your work or you supervise any work that makes use of concrete, it is a must to learn about its hazards, one of which is developing concrete dermatitis.
What is concrete or cement dermatitis?
This is a skin condition caused by contact with cement. The combination of the cement’s wetness and chemical abrasion and corrosion can lead to skin irritation. When people working with cement become sensitive to cement’s additives such as chromium salts then they could develop allergic dermatitis. Some of the symptoms of concrete dermatitis are redness, itching, blister formation, swelling, and scaling.
Who Is at Risk?
Cement is a basic ingredient in many building materials such as tile grout and plaster. It is also a binding agent used in making modern mortars and is also added in modern stucco or render to make it more durable. So, aside from construction laborers working with plain concrete, other workers or using cement-containing materials are also at risk of concrete dermatitis including those who do concrete finishes, who use precast concrete, truck drivers of ready-mix concrete, carpenters, cement block and brick cement layers, tile setters, plasterers and terrazzo workers. In addition, over exposure to cement dust is also hazardous because cement dust when mixed with sweat becomes very corrosive. Those at particular risk include cement plant laborers, cement drilling workers and disaster emergency units such as firefighters.
Why is Wet Cement Hazardous?
Portland cement, the most common cement type, consists of calcium oxide which turns into the highly alkaline calcium hydroxide when water is added to cement. On the pH scale, ph14 is the highest alkaline point and calcium hydroxide has a pH of 12-13, making it extremely damaging once it gets onto human skin which has a normal pH of 5.5 and is actually slightly acidic. That acidic layer of skin helps it repair damage and because alkalis counteract acid, prolonged skin exposure to strong alkaline substances such as in wet cement can cause severe skin damage.
First Aid Treatment
If fresh cement comes into contact with skin, rinse the skin with clean, cool water at once. Likewise, if cement gets into the eyes, flush with clean, cool water for about 15 minutes. Seek medical help if irritation does not subside.