What is chloracne?

Chloracne is the main symptom of poisoning with chlorinated hydrocarbons. Although the chloracne has a different cause than common acne (acne vulgaris), it has an acne-like appearance. Typical features are, for example, blackheads (comedones), a thickening of the horny layer as well as inflammatory abscesses and knots on the affected skin.

Dioxin poisoning as a possible cause

Among the chlorinated hydrocarbons include the so-called dioxins. Dioxins are chemical compounds that are produced during the production, melting or combustion of chlorine-containing products and are already carcinogenic and highly toxic in small quantities. They are used for example in some pesticides, wood preservatives or certain hydraulic oils, but are also low concentrated in foods such as eggs.

The toxic dioxins can be absorbed by direct skin contact and in rare cases by oral route or by inhalation of toxic fumes. The chloracne is therefore considered as a form of contact acne (acne venenata), which arises as a skin reaction through direct contact with a particular substance. The face is especially affected by the skin changes.

Chloracne as a result of a swimming pool visit?

Not to be confused is the chloracne with a chlorine allergy that can occur as a result of a swimming pool visit. A chlorine allergy manifests as an itchy rash or burning eyes after contact with the chlorinated water. Erroneously, such complaints are often interpreted as chloracne. However, the occurrence of chloracne is bound on the one hand to much higher chlorine concentrations, as they are achieved in swimming pools. On the other hand, it is not caused by pure chlorine, but by interactions of chlorine with other chemicals. Chloracne is predominantly an occupational disease among workers in the electrical and chemical industries exposed to continuous chlorine-containing chemicals.

Treatment of chloracne

The treatment of chloracne can be done, for example, by opening and emptying the cysts and the administration of anti-inflammatory or hormone-containing drugs. However, the effectiveness of retinoids (vitamin A acid preparations) for the chloracne control is controversial.

To relieve scarring, cold therapy (cryotherapy) can be used. Excessive scar tissue and various other tissue diseases are removed by a brief application of ice. Skin exfoliation or plastic procedures such as skin erosion (dermabrasion) are also possibilities of treatment. However, in spite of therapy, disfiguring scars often remain on the affected skin in the case of a chronic course. It may take several years for the chloracne to finally heal.

Seveso acne

Chloracne is also known as Seveso Acne. The name comes from a chemical accident in the Italian city of Seveso in 1976, in which massive amounts of highly toxic dioxin were released and more than 200 people fell ill.

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