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Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(4):191-202. doi: 10.1159/000135635. Epub 2008 May 29.

Skin irritation and sensitization: mechanisms and new approaches for risk assessment.

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DABMEB Consultancy Ltd., Sharnbrook, UK.


Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) is a common skin disease with a significant social and economic impact. In contrast to irritation, skin sensitization is a response of the adaptive immune system, in which there is a delayed T-cell-mediated allergic response to chemically modified skin proteins. The chemicals that can covalently modify the skin proteins and trigger an allergic reaction are referred to as haptens or sensitizers. Attempts have been made in many countries to reduce the problems of ACD by the implementation of legislations related to skin-sensitizing chemicals, as well as by the early detection and risk assessment of substances with sensitizing properties. For many years, the simple identification of sensitizing chemicals was performed in guinea pig tests. A murine test, the local lymph node assay (LLNA), has been validated as a replacement for the guinea pig tests. Despite the recent introduction of in vitro methods for the identification of sensitizing chemicals, the LLNA results (when coupled with good exposure data) can be used as the starting point for a quantitative risk assessment. The quantitative risk assessment is aimed to identify the safe use thresholds for any potential skin sensitizer.

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