Skin Sensitization: Strategies for the Assessment and Management of Risk

D.A. Basketter


The British Journal of Dermatology. 2008;159(2):267-273. 

In This Article


A substantial minority of chemicals possesses the ability to cause skin sensitization. Identifying the chemicals that pose this hazard is a fundamental component of toxicology screening and can be done with a high degree of success. Nevertheless, such basic hazard identification has done little, arguably nothing, to protect human health by limiting the extent of ACD. For assessing the real risks to human health, it is important to measure the relative potency of an identified chemical allergen, to understand how humans are exposed to it and then to integrate this information to derive an assessment of that risk and, if necessary, formulate a plan for its management. In the consumer world, this often translates simply to the voluntary or regulatory imposition of concentration limits in (various classes of) products, perhaps with suitable labelling. Occupationally, the picture is much more varied, with both an equivalent of the consumer limit process mentioned above being applied, but also with much greater emphasis on controlling skin exposure, including via the use of personal protective equipment. New tools for skin sensitization risk assessment are now available, but have still to be thoroughly tested; this simply requires time, with human experience in the factory and/or marketplace being the ultimate arbiter of success. Whether forthcoming in vitro alternatives can generate the same type and quality of information to permit risk assessments of similar, or greater, accuracy remains a challenge for the future.

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