Julia Marks

Project title: Quantifying Chemical Transfer from Fabric to Skin

Degree: MS (Thesis) | Program: Environmental Health (EH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2015 | Faculty advisor: John C. Kissel


Many commercial textiles (clothing, linens, upholstery, furniture) are impregnated, or may be contaminated with, chemicals capable of penetrating the skin. Several researchers have detected high concentrations of metals, pesticides, flame-retardants, phthalates, and optical brighteners in children and adult clothing items. Other studies have demonstrated the transmission of chemicals from clothing to urine. However, the fabric-to-skin pathway remains poorly quantified. This study aims to measure the rate at which a low volatility optical brightener would transfer from clothing to and through the skin. [14C]-7-hydroxycoumarin was applied to three types of fabrics in two fabric concentrations. Human cadaver skin was exposed to the loaded fabric in vitro for 24-hours. Migration of the radiolabeled compound was measured by liquid scintillation counting (LSC). Data produced by this study enabled the calculation of flux to skin (ng/cm2/hr) as well as a fabric-specific mass transfer coefficient (kF). Analysis of the data suggests that dermal exposure to chemicals in textiles can contribute to the total body burden of such compounds. Quantification of fabric-to-skin transfer rates can aid in the assessment of the effects of fabric type, fabric load, and contact time on chronic exposure to semi-volatile organic chemicals.