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Burns. 2012 May;38(3):383-7. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2011.09.014. Epub 2011 Oct 28.

Chemical burns--an historical comparison and review of the literature.

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West Midlands Regional Burns Centre, University Hospitals of Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, New Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mindelsohn Way, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2WB, UK.


Chemical burns represent a small proportion of cutaneous burn with an incidence of up to 10.7%, but have been reported to account for up to 30% of all burn deaths. A review of the literature shows incidences ranging from 2.4% to 10.7%, with a substantial predominance in males. Adult patients with a burn referred to our Regional Burns Centre, over an eight-year period, were identified. 185 chemical burns were recorded (7.9%). The mean age of patient was 40 years (range 16-81 years) and male to female ratio was 6.4:1. Over three-quarters of chemical injuries occurred in the domestic or industrial setting. Acids caused 26% of all chemical burns and alkalis caused 55%. A previous study from the same centre highlights a change in the demographics of chemical burn over the last 25 years. The proportion of chemical burns has risen from 2.7% to 7.9%. Chemical burns occurring in an industrial setting, have dropped, whilst the number of domestic chemical burns has increased by over three times. This change reflects the improved industrial health and safety policy in recent years. The move from the industrial setting to the domestic has implications for future regulations.

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