Sunday, June 7, 2015

Having a Hammer as a Sole Tool Focuses Your View of Problems to Nails

A noted psychologist, Abraham Maslow, is credited by some as coming up with one of my favorite quotes which I am paraphrasing below:

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, 
  you will see every problem as a nail”

Our Industrial Hygiene tool kit is rich in tools designed to assess the exposure and risk from the inhalation of toxicants.   Indeed, essentially all of our exposure limits (TLV, PELs, OELs, etc.) are set as airborne concentrations that might occur in the breathing zone of workers.   I am unaware of any similar compendiums of dermal exposure limits but my readers have pleasantly surprised me in the past.  So if you know of any please send me an email.

Indeed, if a chemical has a relatively high molecular weight (say >200 Daltons) and an octanol water partitioning coefficient of greater than 100,  its exposure potential will most like result more from dermal exposure than from inhalation.  Indeed, I seem to remember biological and air monitoring studies done with pentachlorophenol in open wood treatment lines showed that the majority (>90%)  of the systemic exposure/dose to the workers came from dermal rather than inhalation exposure.

I met Chris Packham in London many years ago and he struck with his focus and dedication to the science of control of worker health risk from dermal exposure.   Clearly he has continued that dedication with his more current teachings and writings.   The following quote was taken from a document that he recently sent and me and does indeed provide food for thought:

It is well established that inhalation of toxic chemicals can result in systemic effects, i.e. damage to internal organs and systems. A great deal of research and development has been undertaken resulting in strategies and equipment to monitor inhalation exposure. As a result in many countries there are exposure limits for a wide range of chemicals. Far less attention has been paid to the potential for chemicals to penetrate the skin and either cause or contribute to systemic toxic effects. Yet there is considerable evidence showing the potential for skin exposure to do this, including with chemicals that are unlikely ever to be inhaled because of their physical properties.(1) There is also a view that inhalation exposure results in more serious damage to health than can occur from skin exposure, often regarded as “just a rash”. Yet the EU Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (EU1272/2008) contains the Hazard Statement 'H310 – Fatal in contact with skin'.

In this article the author will review the evidence showing why, in considering risks of damage to health due to the use of chemicals, the potential for skin exposure to cause systemic damage must be an integral part of any chemical exposure risk assessment.

If you would like the full text of this piece by Chris, just let me know at and I will send it to you.

Chris, has also had a recent (February 2015) piece printed by the British Occupational Hygiene Society on this subject that I would be happy to send to you as well.

I would be very interested to hear how readers of this blog address dermal exposure and risk assessment and how these efforts compare to what is done for inhalation risks.


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