Properties of liquids and dusts: how do they influence dermal loading during immersion, deposition, and surface contact exposure pathways?

Melanie Gorman Ng, Stan de Poot, Kaspar Schmid, Hilary Cowie, Sean Semple, Martie Van Tongeren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Although dustiness and viscosity are potential determinants of dermal exposure, their effect on exposure is poorly understood. The goal of this study was to investigate the effect of dustiness and viscosity on dermal exposure by each of three dermal exposure pathways (deposition, surface contact, and immersion). METHODS: The hands of four volunteers were exposed to non-toxic substances: particulate with varying dustiness (calcium acetate, zinc oxide, and Epsom salt) and liquids of varying viscosity (three glycerol/water solutions containing 20, 50, or 85% glycerol) by each pathway. Dermal exposure was measured by a systematic wipe of the entire hand. Calcium acetate, zinc oxide, and Epsom salts were analysed on wipes by inductively coupled plasma/atomic emission spectrometry and glycerol was measured by gas chromatography with a flame ionization detector. The relationship between exposure and either dustiness or viscosity was examined using either parametric (analysis of variance) or non-parametric (Kruskal-Wallis) tests. RESULTS: Both viscosity and dustiness appeared to have an effect on dermal exposure. Increasing viscosity lead to higher exposures by the immersion pathway (P <0.001) but lower exposures by the deposition pathway (although this relationship was not statistically significant: P = 0.19). Viscosity had no apparent effect on exposure from surface contact. Dustiness did not affect transfer of particulate to the skin by immersion (P = 0.403) but it did affect exposure by the surface transfer and deposition pathways. The dustiest substance (calcium acetate) transferred to skin more readily following contact with contaminated surfaces than zinc oxide or Epsom salts (P = 0.016). For the deposition pathway, the highest exposures were seen for the dustiest substance (calcium acetate) but statistical analysis was not conducted as 67% of measurements were below detection limits. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that both viscosity and dustiness can affect dermal exposure. They also show that the determinants of dermal exposure can be different for each of the dermal exposure pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-639
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number5
Early online date12 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • dermal exposure measurement
  • determinants of exposure
  • exposure pathways
  • method comparison


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