Penetration of Metals Through the Skin Barrier

  • Francesca Larese FilonEmail author


Metals can penetrate the skin barrier and reach the viable epidermis and dermis, inducing allergic sensitization that can cause allergic contact dermatitis through a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction. Moreover, metals can permeate the skin, reaching the general circulation with a potential for systemic intoxication that has been demonstrated only for extremely toxic metals, such as dimethylmercury. Penetration is related to many factors, such as applied dose, area involved, duration of contact, body site, thickness and integrity of the skin layers, sweating, temperature, humidity, physical activity, gender, race, age, characteristic of the substance, vehicles used, etc.

Experimental data on humans in vivo or in vitro has demonstrated that metals can penetrate and permeate the skin in an amount in the range of ng/cm2/h if applied in metallic or nano-form, while soluble metal salts can penetrate the skin in higher amounts. The time needed for permeation is quite long, ranging between 2 and 15 h. Skin can act also as a reservoir for metals that can be stored in hair follicles or bound to skin proteins. This chapter reviews current knowledge of penetration of metals through the skin barrier, focusing mainly on sensitizing metals.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit of Occupational Medicine, Department of Medical SciencesUniversity of TriesteTriesteItaly

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