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My Immunity, No More

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 15, 2009 11:27:08 AM

Losing a (Once Winning) Battle with Poison Ivy

Paula Kaufmann - CIH

For years I was the “go to person” when poison ivy was spotted in a yard – I was the neighborhood “poison ivy abatement expert”. I could always remove (yank out) the vines and clean up the debris with no rash appearing on my skin. I thought I was immune to the allergic response of the poison ivy sap. But, I was wrong.

As an industrial hygienist, I should have known better. For me, getting sensitized to the poison ivy required many, many exposures. But eventually, I did get sensitized. And now, I get contact dermatitis when I don’t even realize that poison ivy is near me.

I should have known better … I did the thing that I constantly preach not to do. I exposed myself to a chemical when I could have protected myself. I routinely design work procedures and select personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize worker exposure to all chemicals. The fundamental concept is to minimize exposure because individuals have a range of response to acute or chronic exposure to chemicals. Some people have a response with very low exposures and others can tolerate much higher exposures before showing a response. This is known as the dose-response curve and we (industrial hygienist’s) explain this to workers and their management during occupational health safety training sessions.

There is lots of information on the web about poison ivy – how to minimize exposure, decontaminate your skin when you think you have had contact with the sap, and both home remedies for treatment of the rash. Here are a couple of sites with comprehensive information:

Just to think, if I hadn’t been so careless about exposing myself to the poison ivy, I may not have become sensitized over my lifetime. All I can do now is try not to scratch and not do anymore weeding of the garden this season. In my next life, I’m going to wear a hazmat suit when clearing the overgrowth in the yard. I wish I had a second chance in this life!

Topics: Personal Protective Equipment, General Industry H&S, H&S Training, Occupational Health, Exposure

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