Get access

Dermatologist-diagnosed skin diseases among immigrant Latino poultry processors and other manual workers in North Carolina, USA


  • Funding: This research was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (grant R01 OH009251).

  • Conflicts of interest: None.

Sara A. Quandt, phd
Department of Epidemiology and Prevention
Division of Public Health Sciences
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Medical Center Boulevard
Winston-Salem NC 27157USA


Background  Immigrant Latino workers represent an expanding workforce in rural areas of the USA, where their employment is concentrated in occupations such as poultry processing that entail chemical, infectious, and mechanical skin exposures. Occupation-related skin illnesses in this vulnerable population are not well characterized.

Objectives  This study was designed to describe the prevalences of skin diseases among immigrant Latino poultry processors and other manual workers in North Carolina.

Methods  Community-based sampling was used to recruit 742 immigrant Latino workers, 518 of whom underwent a physical examination supervised by a board-certified dermatologist. The presence or absence of skin disease on the face, neck, arms, hands, and feet was recorded.

Results  Workers ranged in age from 18 years to 68 years. Slightly over half of the sample were male (52.6%). Poultry workers represented 55.8% of the study sample. Infectious skin diseases were the most common diagnosis, present in 52.3% of workers. Inflammatory skin diseases were present in 28.2% and pigmentary disorders in 21.8% of workers. The most common skin conditions were tinea pedis (37.6%), onychomycosis (31.9%), scars (13.7%), acne (11.8%), and melasma (9.3%). Age, sex, first language, and work as a poultry processor accounted in part for the prevalence of these diseases.

Conclusions  Several skin diseases are highly prevalent in immigrant Latino workers and may relate to work environment. These may impair the quality of life of these workers and predispose them to further illness.