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Toxicol Lett. 2015 Jun 1;235(2):123-39. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2015.03.012. Epub 2015 Mar 28.

Dermal uptake of petroleum substances.

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Laboratory for Analytical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology, University of Zagreb, Pierottijeva 6, Zagreb, Croatia. Electronic address:
Coronel Institute of Occupational Health, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address:
Shell Health, Shell International B.V., Carel van Bylandtlaan 16, 2596 HR The Hague, The Netherlands. Electronic address:


Petroleum products are complex substances comprising varying amounts of linear and branched alkanes, alkenes, cycloalkanes, and aromatics which may penetrate the skin at different rates. For proper interpretation of toxic hazard data, understanding their percutaneous absorption is of paramount importance. The extent and significance of dermal absorption of eight petroleum substances, representing different classes of hydrocarbons, was evaluated. Literature data on the steady-state flux and permeability coefficient of these substances were evaluated and compared to those predicted by mathematical models. Reported results spanned over 5-6 orders of magnitude and were largely dependent on experimental conditions in particular on the type of the vehicle used. In general, aromatic hydrocarbons showed higher dermal absorption than more lipophilic aliphatics with similar molecular weight. The results showed high variation and were largely influenced by experimental conditions emphasizing the need of performing the experiments under "in use" scenario. The predictive models overestimated experimental absorption. The overall conclusion is that, based on the observed percutaneous penetration data, dermal exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons, even of aromatics with highest dermal absorption is limited and highly unlikely to be associated with health risks under real use scenarios.


Dermal absorption; Petroleum hydrocarbons; Risk assessment; Skin permeability

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