Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 1995 Dec;103 Suppl 9:103-14.

Dermal exposure to environmental contaminants in the Great Lakes.

Author information

Environmental Health Directorate, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.


This paper reviews the literature to determine the importance of the dermal route of exposure for swimmers and bathers using Great Lakes waters and summarizes the chemical water contaminants of concern in the Great Lakes along with relevant dermal absorption data. We detail in vivo and in vitro methods of quantifying the degree of dermal absorption and discuss a preference for infinite dose data as opposed to finite dose data. The basic mechanisms of the dermal absorption process, routes of chemical entry, and the environmental and physiological factors affecting this process are also reviewed, and we discuss the concepts of surface slick exposure to lipophilic compounds and the adsorption of contaminants to water sediment. After presenting mathematical constructs for calculating the degree of exposure, we present in vitro data concerning skin absorption of polyaromatic hydrocarbons adsorbed to Great Lakes water sediment to show that in a worst-case scenario exposure via the dermal route can be equally important to the oral route. We have concluded that prolonged exposure of the skin, especially under conditions that may enhance dermal absorption (e.g., sunburn) may result in toxicologically significant amounts of certain water contaminants being absorbed. It is recommended that swimming should be confined to public beaches, people should refrain from swimming if they are sunburned, and skin should be washed with soap as soon as possible following exposure. Future studies should be conducted to investigate the importance of the dermal exposure route to swimmers and bathers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center