Elizabeth Kilcline

Project title: Characterization of Dermal Absorption Following Decontamination via Washing

Degree: MS | Program: Environmental Health (EH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2011 | Faculty advisor: John C. Kissel


Introduction and Background
Contact with contaminants such as pesticides in the environment can have various and potentially severe impacts on human health. Therefore, it is important to understand and minimize the entry of such chemicals into the body. Exposure can occur via inhalation, ingestion and dermal absorption routes. Of these, dermal absorption is the least understood. One aspect of dermal absorption that is particularly uncertain is the effect of washing.

In both personal and occupational hygiene, washing in the primary method recommended for dealing with dermal exposure to hazardous chemicals. The Worker Protection Standard (CFR 2008a, 2008b) states that employers of pesticide handlers must provide decontamination supplies in the form of water, soap and towels sufficient for washing. These are the only required decontamination supplies under this standard. Therefore, it is implicit in the regulations that washing with soap and water is an effective way to remove dermal contamination. Despite its regular usage in personal and industrial hygiene and its widely assumed effectiveness as a decontaminating agent for toxic substances, at present there is no widely accepted and well-founded theory that explains the removal of chemicals from the skin via washing. This review aims to compile relevant information from published studies and elucidates any patterns in the effects of washing on dermal absorption. A better understanding of the current available data is a necessary step toward developing a mathematical model that incorporates this information with general chemical principles into a theoretical framework. Implementation of both a review of the published literature and development of a mathematical model will aid in increasing understanding of dermal exposure in general and effective washing practices in particular.