The skin as a route of entry for toxic chemicals has caused increasing concern over the last decade. The assessment of systemic hazards from dermal exposures has evolved over time, often limited by the amount of experimental data available. The result is that there are many methods being used to assess safety of chemicals in the workplace. The process of assessing hazards of skin contact includes estimating the amount of substance that may end up on the skin and estimating the amount that might reach internal organs. Most times, toxicology studies by the dermal route are not available and extrapolations from other exposure routes are necessary. The hazards of particular chemicals can be expressed as "skin notations", actual exposure levels, or safe exposure times. Characterizing the risk of a specific procedure in the workplace involves determining the ratio of exposure standards to an expected exposure. The purpose of this review is to address each of the steps in the process and describe the assumptions that are part of the process. Methods are compared by describing their strengths and weaknesses. Recommendations for research in this area are also included.
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