Ongoing Skin Research

woman smelling flowers, latex gloves, chef cooking over hot grill

Ongoing Skin Research

NIOSH has many research projects related to skin and skin exposures, including those in the following areas:

NORA Dermal Exposure Research Program (DERP)

Estimates indicate that more than 13 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin. A worker’s skin may be exposed to hazardous chemicals through direct contact with contaminated surfaces, deposition of aerosols, immersion, or splashes. When substantial amounts of chemicals are absorbed, systemic toxicity can result. Contact dermatitis can also result when chemicals are absorbed through a worker’s skin. Contact dermatitis is one of the most common chemically induced occupational illness, accounting for 10-15 percent of all occupational illnesses at an estimated annual cost of at least $1 billion.

The NORA Dermal Exposure Research Program (DERP) was started in response to this situation. The overall goal of the program is to promote the development of improved NIOSH policies and recommendations for identifying and controlling harmful exposures of the skin to chemicals. This goal will be accomplished by (1) adding critical information to our current knowledge base through laboratory and field investigations and (2) developing and applying scientific decision-making processes for policy development using that knowledge base.

Field-Based Studies of Hazards, Health, Risk and Controls

A number of NIOSH research groups have conducted field studies and compiled statistics characterizing dermal exposures, determining health effects, characterizing risks or evaluating exposure controls. Others have worked on improving the tools available for conducting such studies.

Bibliography of Recent NIOSH Peer-Reviewed Publications from Field Based Studies of Hazards, Health, Risk and Controls

Evaluation of Self-Reported Skin Problems Among Workers Exposed to Toluene Diisocyanate (TDI) at a Foam Manufacturing Facility
J Occup Environ Med (2002, vol. 44, pp. 1197-1202) – Results suggest that the skin symptoms among study participants represent an irritant rather than an immunologic reaction to TDI or arise from an unidentified allergen present in the foam.

Determinants of chlorpyrifos exposures and urinary 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol levels among termiticide applicators
Ann Occup Hyg (2001, vol. 45, pp. 309-321) – Characterizes the exposures and work activities of 41 applicators in North Carolina using chlorpyrifos-containing termiticides.

Distributions and Determinants of Pre-emergent Herbicide Exposures Among Custom Applicators
Ann Occup Hyg (2001, vol. 45, pp. 227-239) – Characterizes the exposure distributions of four herbicides during the spraying of corn and soybean fields. Also evaluates determinants of exposure and estimates within- and between-worker variance components.

Commentary: Exposure and Absorption of Hazardous Materials Through the Skin
Int J Occup Environ Health (2000, vol. 6, pp. 148-150) – Discusses current issues involving “skin notations” and proposals to establish Dermal Occupational Exposure Limits in the context of early pioneering work on percutaneous absorption of chemicals.

Hand wash and manual skin wipes
Ann Occup Hyg (2000, vol. 44, pp. 501-510) – Overview of identified methods and techniques, with emphasis on sampling parameters and sampling efficiency.

Occupational dermatitis causing days away from work in US private industry
Amer J Industr Med (1998, vol. 34, pp. 568-573) – Estimates the incidence of occupational dermatitis cases that cause days away from work and characterizes those cases.

Cancer Risks Among Workers Exposed to Metalworking Fluids: A Systematic Review
Amer J Industr Med (1998, vol. 33, pp. 282-292) – Substantial evidence was found for an increased risk of skin cancer associated primarily with straight-oil metalworking fluids used prior to the mid-1970s.


Methodological Studies for Improved Chemical Analyses and Risk Analyses

A number of NIOSH research groups have conducted laboratory studies to improve the analysis of various types of samples and to improve tools for estimating risk.

Bibliography of Recent NIOSH Peer-Reviewed Publications from Methodological Studies for Improved Chemical Analyses and Risk Analyses

In vivo sensitization to purified Hevea brasiliensis
proteins in health care workers sensitized to natural rubber latex
J Allergy Clin Immunol (2003, vol. 111, pp. 610-616) – Identifies four latex proteins as major in vivo allergens in health care workers. Current FDA-approved serum tests do not correctly detect sensitization in many workers.

Steady-State Flux and Lag Time in the Stratum Corneum Lipid Pathway: Results from Finite Element Models
J Pharm Sci (2003, vol. 92, pp. 2196-2207) – Simple mathematical equations can be used to predict the transport properties of the stratum corneum lipid pathway. These properties depend on the geometrical arrangement of the corneocytes.

A Critique of Assumptions About Selecting Chemical-Resistant Gloves: A Case for Workplace Evaluation of Glove Efficacy
Appl Occup Environ Hyg (2002, vol. 17, pp. 360-367) – Identifies and discusses variables that may influence the performance of chemical-resistant gloves. The authors recommend passive dermal monitoring to evaluate glove performance under actual-use conditions.

A New Technique to Determine Organic and Inorganic Acid Contamination
Analyst (2002, vol. 127, pp. 178-182) – Reports the results of tests of the permeation of propionic and acrylic acids through glove materials using a modified ASTM protocol and new pads that change color when acid is detected.

A Random Walk Model of Skin Permeation
Risk Analysis (2002, vol. 22, pp. 265-276 – Diffusion is modeled as a two-dimensional random walk through stratum corneum. Algebraic expressions are developed to predict the movement of chemicals through skin.

In-Use Testing and Interpretation of Chemical-Resistant Glove Performance
Appl Occup Environ Hyg (2002, vol. 17, pp. 368-378) – Reviews methods for testing glove performance during use in the workplace and suggests an approach for estimating acceptable exposure guidance criteria for chemicals that are systemically absorbed.

Regarding the Sources of Data Analyzed with Quantitative Structure-Skin Permeability Relationship Methods
Eur J Pharm Sci (2002, vol. 15, pp. 399-403) – Cautions that a published set of presumably experimental data includes some values that were calculated. That makes these data unsuitable for developing statistical predictions of skin permeability.

Development of Sampling and Analytical Methods for Concerted Determination of Commonly Used Chloroacetanilide, Chlorotriazine, and 2,4-D Herbicides in Hand-wash, Dermal-patch, and Air Samples
Appl Occup Environ Hyg (2001, vol. 16, pp. 698-707) – Reports on a hand-wash method (shaking the worker’s hand in a bag containing isopropanol), a dermal-patch method (attaching a foam patch to the worker) and an air method (sampling with an OVS-2 tube) with analysis by gas chromatography with an electron-capture detector. Each of the sampling and analytical methods met NIOSH criteria for most of the eight herbicides studied.

Random Sampling or ‘Random’ Model in Skin Flux Measurements? [Commentary on “Investigation of the Mechanism of Flux Across Human Skin In Vitro by Quantitative Structure Permeability Relationships”]
Eur J Pharm Sci (2001, vol. 14, pp. 197-200) – Discusses some major hurdles on the way to full understanding of Quantitative Structure–Activity Relationships (QSAR) of skin permeation.

Receiver Operating Characteristics Analyses of Food and Drug Administration-cleared Serological Assays for Natural Rubber Latex-specific Immunoglobulin E Antibody
Clin Diagn Lab Immunol (2001, vol. 8, pp. 1145-1149) – Evaluates and compares the diagnostic accuracy of three Food and Drug Administration (510K)-cleared natural rubber latex (NRL)-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody immunoassays using well-characterized skin-testing reagents.

A Laboratory Comparison of Two Media for Use in the Assessment of Dermal Exposure to Pesticides
Appl Occup Environ Hyg (2000, vol. 15, pp. 946-950) – Compares the ability of gauze pads and Empore filters to assess the dermal exposure of two insecticides (chlorpyrifos and diazinon) and five herbicides (atrazine, alachlor, metolachlor, cyanazine, and 2,4-D ethylhexyl ester).

A Quantitative Study of Aromatic Amine Permeation Through Protective Gloves Using Amine Adsorptive Pads
Am Ind Hyg Assoc J (2000, vol. 61, pp. 837-841) – Characterizes the permeation of aniline through a protective glove material using Permea-Tec® aromatic amine pads.

A Robust Structure-Activity Relationship (SAR) Model for Esters that Cause Skin Irritation in Humans
Toxicol Sci (2000, vol. 55, pp. 215-222) – Describes a model based on data for 42 esters that were tested in humans for skin irritation. The model results indicate that physicochemical features of esters contribute to their ability to cause skin irritation in humans, and that chemical partitioning into the epidermis and intermolecular reactions are likely important components of the response. This model may be applicable for prediction of human irritation of esters yet untested.

Comparison of Solvents for Removing Pesticides from Skin Using an In Vitro Porcine Model
Am Ind Hyg Assoc J (2000, vol. 61, pp. 82-88) – Found that four hydrophilic solvents acted similarly in removing pesticides with a wide range of water solubilities 90 minutes after the pesticide was applied to the skin. A smaller fraction of pesticide was removed when a smaller amount was applied.

Determination of Alkylamine Permeation Through Protective Gloves Using Aliphatic Amine Pads
J Environ Monit (1999, vol. 1, pp. 545-548) – Characterizes the analytical capabilities of Permea-Tec® aliphatic amine pads for testing the permeation of triethylamine through gloves. Breakthrough times for several protective glove materials ranged from 40 s to >4 h.

Recovery of Some Common Solvents from Protective Clothing Breakthrough Indicator Pads by Microwave-Solvent Extraction and Gas Chromatography
Analyst (1999, vol. 124, pp. 941-944) – Characterizes the analytical capabilities of Permea-Tec® general solvent pads for six solvents: methanol, acetone, ethyl methyl ketone, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, m-xylene, and D-limonene.

Page last reviewed: July 3, 2013