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Journal of occupational medicine. : official publication of the Industrial Medical Association

Occupational vitiligo due to unsuspected presence of phenolic antioxidant byproducts in commercial bulk rubber.


PMID 2969045

Abstract

We investigated the occurrence of cutaneous depigmentation (vitiligo) among employees of a company that manufactured hydraulic pumps. The interiors of these pumps were injection-molded with rubber. We identified a small but significant cluster of vitiligo cases among a group of employees who frequently handled the rubber used in this injection molding process. Although none of the additives specified in the rubber formulations was a phenolic or catecholic derivative, known to be potential causes of chemically induced vitiligo, gas chromatographic analysis identified a para-substituted phenol (2,4-di-tert-butylphenol, DTBP) in solid samples of the most frequently used rubber. Surface wipe analysis confirmed that workers could be exposed to DTBP from simple handling of the rubber. We subsequently established that the solid bulk rubber used as the base in these stock rubber formulations contained both DTBP and smaller quantities of p-tert-butylphenol. Both had formed as unsuspected byproducts during chemical synthesis of two antioxidants added to the solid bulk rubber by a major rubber supplier. We conclude that the unsuspected presence of potential chemical depigmenting agents in solid bulk rubber, from which industrial rubber products are formulated, may contribute to the occurrence of occupational vitiligo, and that a simple review of ingredients in rubber formulations is inadequate to detect their presence.

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