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November 1987

Phytophotodermatitis From Celery Among Grocery Store Workers

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Surveillance, Hazards Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati (Drs Seligman, Mathias, O'Malley, and Halperin), the Veterinary Toxicology and Entomology Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, College Station, Tex (Dr Beier), and the Health Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources, Portland (Dr Fehrs). Dr Serrill is in private practice, Albany, Ore.

Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(11):1478-1482. doi:10.1001/archderm.1987.01660350078017

• We detected 19 cases of phytophotodermatitis during a cross-sectional epidemiological investigation of two Oregon grocery stores that were part of the same supermarket chain. Outdoor sunlight exposure during the workshift and tanning salon use were identified as risk factors; the most severe cutaneous reactions tended to occur among tanning salon users. Although both stores carried the same brands and varieties of produce, all 19 cases occurred among employees of one store, which had held a celery sale coincident with the outbreak, resulting in a quadrupling of the usual volume of celery sold. We found elevated psoralen levels in two of three celery samples obtained from the affected store; cutaneous provocation tests with trimmed surfaces of these celery samples produced phototoxic reactions. Preliminary experiments with one brand of celery have demonstrated psoralen levels as high as 25 μg/cm2 of trimmed surface. These observations suggest that clinical phytophotodermatitis among grocery store workers may be caused by healthy celery and results from a complex interaction of exposure variables, including ultraviolet radiation from tanning salon use, frequency of handling celery, celery brand, and sporadic elevations of psoralen content from environmental stresses.

(Arch Dermatol 1987;123:1478-1482)

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