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Contact Dermatitis. 1999 Apr;40(4):183-8.

Regulatory classification of substances oxidized to skin sensitizers on exposure to air.

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  • 1National Institute for Working Life, Department of Occupational Medicine, Solna, Sweden.


Regulatory classification of substances in the European Union (EU) is intended to identify their hazardous toxicological properties in a formal and harmonized manner. In the regulatory work, a specific chemical with its molecular structure is classified as a skin sensitizer. This implies that the compound is stable throughout its lifetime. The purpose of the present paper is to discuss the problem of skin sensitizing oxidation/degradation products formed by air exposure of various materials or substances with very low allergenic activity. In regulatory classification work on skin sensitizers, the intrinsic suspectibility of a chemical to air oxidation (autoxidation) should be taken into consideration. We give examples of natural terpenoid materials, but the concept of allergens formed by air oxidation can apply to other materials widely used in industrial products. If a positive classification is made for a substance with a known chemical structure, a note should indicate that the primary chemical structure of the notified substance is not a skin sensitizer, but that (some of) its oxidation products are. Complex mixtures which inevitably contain sensitizing oxidation products should (on the basis of sufficient evidence) be classified as skin sensitizing.

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