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Am J Infect Control. 2012 Apr;40(3):250-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2011.03.009. Epub 2011 Jul 8.

Dermal and pulmonary absorption of propan-1-ol and propan-2-ol from hand rubs.

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  • 1Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany.



It has been shown that nontoxic concentrations of ethanol are absorbed after hand hygiene using ethanol-based hand rubs. This study investigated whether absorption of propan-1-ol and propan-2-ol from commercially available hand rubs results in measurable concentrations after use.


The pulmonary and dermal absorption of propanol during hand rubs was investigated. Rubs contained 70% (w/w) propan-1-ol, 63.14% (w/w) propan-2-ol, or 45% (w/w) propan-2-ol in combination with 30% (w/w) propan-1-ol.


Peak median blood levels were 9.15 mg/L for propan-1-ol and 5.3 mg/L for propan-2-ol after hygienic hand rubs and 18.0 mg/L and 10.0 mg/L, respectively, after surgical hand rubs. Under actual surgical conditions, the highest median blood levels were 4.08 mg/L for propan-1-ol and 2.56 mg/L for propan-2-ol. The same procedure performed with prevention of pulmonary exposure through the use of a gas-tight mask resulted in peak median blood levels of 1.16 mg/L of propan-1-ol and 1.74 mg/L of propan-2-ol.


Only minimal amounts of propanols are absorbed through the use of hand rubs. Based on our experimental data, the risk of chronic systemic toxic effects caused by hand rubs is likely negligible. However, our study did not evaluate the consequences of long-term daily and frequent use of hygienic hand rubs.

Copyright © 2012 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

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