Inhalation is normally considered to be the main route by which chemicals can enter the body. Most industrial processes where chemicals are used will create airborne dust clouds or lead to the evolution of vapours and gases which are readily inhaled and then absorbed into the bloodstream via the respiratory system. However, in some cases there is a potential risk from absorption of substances through the skin following dermal exposure, usually due to direct contact with organic liquids but sometimes through absorption of vapours.
Assessing skin exposure isn’t easy. There are well established methods for estimating exposure to most common industrial chemicals by inhalation but there are a number of major difficulties involved in developing a good method for measuring uptake through the skin.
Starting in 2003, a major International conference has been held devoted to the science of skin exposure to chemicals at work and from the environment. BOHS hosted the fourth conference in Edinburgh two years ago. The latest conference was held in Toronto, Canada at the beginning of June. One of the keynote presentations was given by John Cherrie of the Institute of Occupational Medicine, and a former president of the BOHS. He provided a good summary of the current state of knowledge on skin exposure assessment. His presentation has just been posted on Slideshare and can be viewed below.
Image from jelaga @ stock.xchng