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Skin protection and percutaneous absorption of chemical hazards


Hazardous substances that penetrate the skin barrier may induce dermal irritation, inflammation or sensitisation, as well as systemically toxic effects. Air threshold limits are insufficient to prevent adverse health effects in the case of contact with substances with a high dermal absorption potential. Biological monitoring is a useful tool to quantify internal exposure of an individual and allows an assessment to be made of the dermal absorption pathway. Additionally, the efficacy of protective equipment can be proved. Standard gloves are ineffective to decrease dermal uptake. Various skin-care products include emulgators, which are used as penetration enhancers in transdermal therapeutic drugs. Hence, specific skin-care products potentially enhance dermal absorption of certain chemicals. On the other hand, the best protection from dermal absorption is the physiological skin barrier—the stratum corneum. Skin-care products that accelerate regeneration of the stratum corneum are obliged to have positive effects to prevent dermal absorption. With regard to the increasing number of occupational skin diseases and the large quantity of skin-care products that are used at workplaces it is essential that the mechanism of protection and efficacy be assessed. In the future, we require evidence-based prevention or evidence-based medicine that includes evidence-based prevention.

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Correspondence to H. Drexler.

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Paper presented at the Occupational Skin Care Management State-of-the-Art Conference, 1–3 September 2000, Zurich

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Drexler, H. Skin protection and percutaneous absorption of chemical hazards. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 76, 359–361 (2003).

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  • Dermal absorption
  • Biological monitoring
  • Penetration enhancement
  • Protective creams