Thomas D. Klingner
Colormetric Laboratories, Inc.
Understanding the Skin
The skin is the largest organ of the body
The skin has two primary functions:
1. It serves as a physical barrier to
2. It retains moisture in the body.
Structure of the Skin
The skin is often conceived as
a brick and mortar structure. The
interstitial lipids bind the
corneocytes together and form a
lipophilic pathway for chemical
absorption into the Stratum
the initial barrier to dermal
Comprised of layers of keratin (dead skin
cells) held together by a lipid matrix
(0.01-0.06 mm thick).
Membrane coating granules (MCG)
produce fatty oils that retain the body’s
The Chemistry of
Three Basic Principles
Oil and water don’t mix
Like Dissolves Like
- chemicals will migrate from a low solubility toward a high
This principle introduces the important concept of the octanol water partition
coefficient or Ko/w. Chemical solubility is characterized based on how
soluble a chemical is in each phase of a 50:50 water and octanol mixture.
Water (hydrophillic) and octanol (lipophillic) lie at opposite ends of the
The preferential solubility in either phase determines where chemicals lie in
the solubility spectrum.
Concentration gradient (Ficks Law)
Chemicals will diffuse from a high concentration toward a lower
This occurs in air and in the skin. Spilled solvent evaporates
contaminating the air in a room to saturation. A drop of chemical on the
skin will permeate into the skin lipids until the skins solvent capacity is
saturated. This is the skin depot capacity.
The lower the chemical molecular weight (MW) the more
rapid diffusion will proceed. Large molecules will
penetrate slowly if at all.
Small grains of sand will quickly sift through a series of
screens where large grains will pass through slowly or
not at all. The skins corneocytes, arranged in the brick
and mortar structure, slow or prevent absorption of
The Process of Dermal
Step 1 - initial dermal uptake
The skin’s primary function is to retain water, therefore,
the skin is an excellent barrier to water soluble
Oil soluble chemicals are readily soluble in the skin’s
lipids and rapidly partition into the stratum corneum.
The K o/w lipid solubility of the chemical determines how
rapidly the chemical is absorbed into the skin. As the
skin’s solvent capacity approaches saturation, the total
exposed area of the skin determines the total
A chemical’s ability to penetrate the outer barrier of the
skin (stratum corneum) depends on two physiochemical
Increasing molecular weight and size is a conflicting factor in skin
penetration. Thus, where compounds may become more lipophilic
with increasing size, the ability of these compounds to diffuse
through the intercellular spaces is reduced.
With solubility remaining constant, a low molecular weight chemical
(L.M.W. 100) will penetrate 100x to 1000x faster than a high
molecular chemical (H.M.W. 400+).
Log Kp = 2.72 + 0.71 log K o/w -0.0061 MW Potts and Guy, USEPA 1992
Chemical CAS No. MW Log K o/w Kp (cm/hr) This equation is used by the EPA
4- 100027 139.1 1.91 6.1E-3
6.1E- to predict skin uptake or the
permeation constant Kp of toxic
4- amino- 119346 154.1 0.96 1.1E-3
Nitropropane,2 79469 110 0.55 1.0E-3
Nitroso- di- butylamine,n- 924163 158.2 1.92 4.8E-3
4.8E- As the solubility increases (higher
K o/w) Kp also increases. As the
Nitroso- ethylurea,n- 759739 117.1 0.23 540.0E-6
MW increases the Kp decreases.
Nitroso- methylurea,n- 684935 103.1 -0.03 430.0E-6
Nitrosodiethanolamine,n- 1116547 134 -1.58 22.0E-6
22.0E- Compare: Phenanthrene log K
o/w 4.57, MW 178.2 Kp is 0.27
Nitrosodiethylamine,n- 55185 88 0.48 1.2E-3
Nitrosodiphenylamine,p- 156105 198.2 3.5 36.0E-3
36.0E- n- log K o/w -1.58 MW 134.0 Kp
Nitrosomethylvinylamine,n- 4549400 86.1 0 570.0E-6
570.0E- 0.000022 cm/hr.
n- 59892 116.1 -0.44 180.0E-6
The Phenanthrene will penetrate
Nitrosonornicotine,n- 16543558 177.2 0.03 170.0E-6
170.0E- the skin1000x faster.
n- 100754 350.3 0.36 25.0E-6
Nonanol 143088 144 3.47 73.0E-3
Octanol 111875 130 2.97 39.0E-3
Parathion 56382 291 3.83 17.0E-3
PCB- 4- 2051629 292 6.5 1.3E+0
PCB- 26601649 361 6.72 710.0E-3
Pentachloronitrobenzene 82688 295.3 4.64 59.0E-3
Pentachloropenol 87865 266.4 5.86 650.0E-3
Pentanol 71410 88 1.56 7.1E-3
4- methyl- 108101 100 1.19 3.3E-3
Phenanthrene 85018 178.2 4.57 270.0E-3
Phenol 108952 94 1.46 5.5E-3
Step 2 - Systemic Uptake
Chemical Warfare Agents (CWA’s) have a low molecular weight,
are moderately lipophillic and highly toxic. To be effective
systemic toxins CWA’s must also demonstrate some degree of
water solubility i.e. midrange K o/w, to partition into the blood
More lipophilic chemicals rapidly saturate the stratum corneum
lipids capacity, but slowly partition into the hydrophillic
bloodstream limiting systemic toxicity. As long as the skin
remains dry, lipophilic chemicals remain more soluble in the skin
lipids limiting systemic absorption.
The Skin Depot – wash-in
Washing with soap and water hydrates the skin and may worsen exposures to lipophilic
chemicals. The chart below shows what happened after washing with soap and water at the
24 hr. mark for four exposures.
The irony – soap and water is effective for water soluble chemicals. Water soluble chemicals
tend to be poorly absorbed via healthy and intact skin.
Washing the skin with soap and water or solvents may actually enhance absorption of
lipophilic chemicals. R. Moody, Toxic. In Vitro,8; 1225 1994
% 0.04 2
Permeation 0.03 3
4 8 12 16 20 24 26 28 32 36 40 44 48
DDT was applied to the skin and the percentage of permeation into the bloodstream
measured. The excess lipophillic DDT (K o/w 6.36) was washed from the skin after 24 hrs.
and the percentage penetrating the bloodstream increased by 5 fold.
Comparison of enhancement effect of decontamination solution on rate of
percutaneous penetration of diethylmalonate remaining in skin samples that
300 were decontaminated 1 hour post exposure. Loke et. al, 1999
250 control Decontamination Mean enhancement
200 1/4 hr. decon Solution penetration rate %
2% (w/v)anionic surfactant 141.19
2% (w/v) cationic surfactant 138.03
150 1/2 hr. decon
2% (w/v) non-ionic surfactant 135.32
de-ionized water hypotonic solution 105.55
100 1 hr. decon
0.9% (w/v)saline isotonic solution 71.27
9 % (w/v) saline hypertonic solution 23.17
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Time is the crucial factor in decontamination.
Diethylmalonate, a nerve agent simulant, was washed from the skin after increasing time intervals of
¼ to ½ hrs. After ½ hr. decontamination with soap and water or water increased systemic absorption
vs. the control (no decontamination). Nerve agents require a certain effective dose to be absorbed. It
is possible that controls may have lived and those decontaminated at 1 hr. would have died.
Solubility is the key.
Note: The EPA “Recognition and Management Pesticide Poisoning” 1999 recommends washing with soap and water.
The pesticide Alachlor that is lipophillic is supplied in a solvent concentrate and applied in a diluted
water emulsion spray. As the Alachlor was, diluted from 20 parts water to 80 parts water, the
concentration was 4x lower but the systemic absorption increased 4x. Alachlor remained more soluble in
the more concentrated emulsion than in the skin.
Evaluation of compounds as barriers to dermal penetration of organophosphates using
acetylcholinesterase inhibition. Olson, Carl T. et al Toxicity Letters, 55(1991) 325-334
Ed50 Values and 95% confidence limits for acetylcholinesterase inhibition.
OP compound Time after exposure (min.) Ed50 (95% confidence limits)
No barrier PEG 540 barrier
TGD 30 1.90 (1.44-2.52) 1915 (0.05-8 X 107)
60 1.01 (0.81-1.26) 33.3 (11.0-100)
120 0.94 (0.710-01.23) 7.89 (5.44-11.4)
240 1.06 (0.83-1.34) 6.28 (4.96-7.95)
GD 30 0.68 (0.52-0.89) 14.4 (5.43-38.4)
60 0.56 (0.40-0.78) 6.17 (3.82-9.97)
120 0.54 (0.39-0.75) 4.39 (2.67-7.22)
240 0.49 (0.33-0.73) 1.76 (0.75-4.12)
VX 30 0.131 (0.031-0.549) 167 (0.9 x 103)
60 0.026 (0.017-0.040) 18.2 (0.055-6002)
120 0.012 (0.010-0.014) 3.38 (0.104-110)
240 0.007 (0.005-0.008) 10 (0.043-103)
A barrier of HMW polyethelene glycol (MW 540) was applied to the skin of rats before exposure to various CWA’s. The
CWA was more soluble in PEG barrier than the skin and systemic absorption was slower. For example, for VX to
achieve systemic toxicity in 30 minutes, .131 mg/Kg was effective with no barrier. With PEG, .167 mg/kg was applied
to achieve the same level of toxicity. An increase of 1000x.
Like Dissolves Like
50% 4 hours
20% 8 hours
water 50% polyglycol corn oil
% of MDI dose remaining in skin
This study compared the ability of water, 50% soap and water, a polyglycol based cleanser
and corn oil (control) to minimize absorption of isocyanate (MDI) into the skin. The data
show that corn oil and the polyglycol based cleanser are more effective than water or soap
and water in limiting the transfer of MDI into the skin. These results are consistent with the
miscibility of MDI in corn oil and polyglycol.
Ronald C. Wester et al. In Vivo Evaluation of MDI Skin Decontamination Procedures. Presented
September 1998, Polyurethane Expo.
Even after 8 hours, less than 10% of the applied dose entered the skin when decontaminated
with non-aqueous HMW solvents. Water alone drove over 50% of the dose into the skin.
Solubility in Skin Decontamination Solvents
A Rational Approach to Skin Decontamination,T. Buckley, Johns Hopkins Univ., M.
Dellarco, USEPA, T. Klingner, CLI Laboratories, AIHA Conference 2001
Comparison of Saturation
70% 10% soap
methylenedianiline chlorpyrifos pentachlorophenol benzo-a-pyrene
log ko/w1.59** log k o/w 4.7*** log k o/w 5.86** log k o/w 6.5**
*Relative to solvent with maximum solubility; maximum solubility was not always achieved
** solubility determined spectrophotometrically
***solubility determined by visual inspection of mass dissolving in solution
Premise: The more soluble the contaminant is in the decontamination agent the more effective
the decontamination process.
Skin Decontamination Selection Guide
D-TAM Skin Cleanser and D-TAM Safe Solvent
Log K o/w 0 3.5 8.0
Soap and Water D-TAM™ Skin D-TAM™ Safe
Cleanser (Peg Based) Solvent (plant oil based)
Phenol Aldrin Benzo-a-pyrene
By adjusting the K o/w of the HMW D-TAM formulation effective decontamination of chemicals across the
entire solubility spectrum can be achieved.
A False Sense of Security
Organophosphate poisoning from wearing a laundered
uniform previously contaminated with parathion.
Clifford, N.J., Nies, A.S., JAMA 12, 1, 89 Vol 262 No 21
Case 1 Case 2 Case 3
25 year old 23 year old 18 year old
This worker was accidentally This worker collapsed at work This worker also collapsed after wearing
sprayed with parathion during after receiving the freshly laundered the re-laundered uniform. The connection
the manufacturing process. The uniform that was previously was made with the earlier contamination and
contaminated uniform was removed contaminated. There was no it was destroyed. No further incidences
and inadvertently sent to be obvious exposure connected to this occurred. Patient recovered in hospital.
laundered rather than destroyed. and the uniform was removed
Patient recovered in hospital. and sent to be laundered. Patient
recovered in hospital.
Re-use of PPC; Potential
Exposure to Pesticides
Garrod, Phillips, Pemberton, Amer. Occup. Hyg., Vol 45, No.1, 2001
38% of agricultural workers using unapproved
disposable gloves showed positive exposure to hands.
95% of workers who re-used chemical protective
gloves (protection factor 20X) had positive exposure.
The re-use of contaminated PPC can result in significant
unanticipated exposure. Proper decontamination of PPC can
prevent these exposures.
“It is better to learn from someone
else’s mistakes rather than your
own.” Dear Ole Dad
• 25% of medical personnel treating victims
of the Tokyo sarin terrorist attack were
themselves acutely poisoned.
“Good ideas are not adopted
automatically. They must be driven into
practice with courageous impatience.”
Admiral Hyman Rickover