What Does Dermal Toxicity Mean?
Dermal toxicity refers to a chemical or other substance's ability to cause adverse effects when it comes in contact with the skin.
In addition to surface-level irritation, some chemicals can be absorbed by the skin and cause skin diseases or damage to other organs.
Safeopedia Explains Dermal Toxicity
Hazardous chemicals and substances are found in every industry and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposes a number of regulatory requirements to protect workers from their harmful effects.
Among other things, OSHA requires employers to:
- Train workers on the safe handling of hazardous materials
- Provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for any job task involving hazardous substances
- Properly label chemical products
- Make safety data sheets available to workers
Despite these requirements, dermal toxicity remains an issue in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 25000 recordable skin diseases were reported in the United States in 2018.
Occupational Dermal Exposure
Occupational skin diseases due to dermal toxicity are a common category of workplace illness. These diseases include contact dermatitis, skin allergies, skin infections, skin injuries, and skin cancers.
How well the skin absorbs a chemical depends on various factors, including:
- Damage to the skin
- Thickness and water content of the outer layer of skin
- Temperature of the skin
- Physical properties of the chemical
- Amount of chemical on the skin surface
- Duration of absorption
PPE for Preventing Dermal Exposure
Workers who handle chemicals with dermal toxic properties should be provided with PPE that will prevent them from coming in direct contact with the chemical products.
Chemical-resistant gloves are the most common safety gear used to prevent dermal toxicity. Several factors must be considered when selecting these gloves, including:
- Type of chemical and its concentration
- Potential duration or frequency of contact
- Type of contact (immersion, splash, mist)
- Whether protection needs to extend to the wrist or forearm
- Amount of grip needed
Hierarchy of Hazard Controls for Dermal Exposure
Employers and safety professionals should follow the hierachy of hazard controls when controlling for dermal toxicity hazards:
- Elimination – Eliminating or modifying job tasks so that the chemical no longer needs to be used
- Substitution – Using a similar chemical product with lower dermal toxicity
- Engineering controls – Installing barriers to protect workers from splashes and other types of contact with chemicals
- Administrative controls – Instituting training programs to educate workers on the risks of dermal toxicity and how to handle chemicals safely
- PPE – Gloves, safety goggles, overalls, disposable coveralls, and any other protective gear that prevents chemicals from making contact with the skin