Dermal Exposure

Control and Prevention

Dermal exposure can be controlled and prevented. Many times it is as simple as changing the chemicals being used. When that is not an option, there are many types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are available. Being familiar with the material on this page will help in the effort to lessen hazardous dermal exposure.

  • Substitution to a less toxic chemical is almost always a good option, unless the alternative chemical is much more volatile.
  • Consideration should be given to re-designing the work process to avoid splashes or immersion. Where that is not feasible, personal protection in the form of chemical protective gloves, an apron, or clothing should be selected. Good housekeeping can avoid the accumulation of stable, low volatility, dermally toxic contaminants on horizontal surfaces. Enclosure and isolation may be feasible for both liquid and solid large aerosols.
  • Published breakthrough information from glove manufacturers and lab test data should be used with caution. Glove breakthrough can occur in considerably less time than expected based upon many factors.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Hand contact is a significant route of exposure. Therefore, proper glove selection is a major means of controlling dermal exposure. Factors that affect glove selection include:
    • type of chemical(s) to be handled (or used)
    • frequency and duration of chemical contact (often to rarely)
    • nature of contact (total immersion, splash, mist, contaminated surfaces)
    • concentration of the chemical
    • temperature of the chemical
    • abrasion, puncture, tear resistance requirements of the job or task
    • length to be protected (hand only, forearm, arm)
    • dexterity requirements of the job or task
    • grip requirements (dry grip, wet grip, oily)
    • glove features (e.g. cuff edge, lining, color (to show contamination))
    • thermal protection
    • size and comfort requirements
    • price
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses the importance of using PPE and implementing a PPE program in the workplace.
  • Personal protection is a last option or a supplemental option to help control all of the above exposure mechanisms. OSHA guidance in selecting appropriate personal protective clothing may be found in 29 CFR 1915 Subpart I, Appendix A.
  • Emergency Response Resources - Personal Protective Equipment. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Covers respirators, protective clothing, latex allergy and eye safety.
  • Chemical Glove Selection. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (eLCOSH) and the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension (Ronald C. Jester), (March 1991). Oriented toward agricultural pesticides, but is well organized and informative to any reader. Covers qualitative description of selection criteria, glove material and feature options, and use/care guidelines.
  • Many examples of generic glove selection charts are available.(31) More quantitative charts (involving "breakthrough time" and "permeation rate" data) are available from manufacturers. A similar, although less quantitative, procedure is appropriate for chemical protective clothing. As the importance of dermal exposures to occupational chemical hazards grows, so too will the tools to evaluate and control these hazards improve.