NIOSH Skin Notation Is a Do Not Touch Warning for These Four Chemicals

There are lots of things people don’t like to touch—hot things, cold things, slimy things, smelly things. But there are some things—and not all of them feel uncomfortable or disgusting—that can do you a lot more harm than a slithery garden slug or a stinky dog in need of a bath. Since some of them are absorbed into your body without any symptoms you’d notice, well, how can you decide what’s dangerous and what’s not?

Enter the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) “skin” notation—published in the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Additional information is available in a Skin Notation Profile, which summarizes all the relevant information used to arrive at the skin designation.

On Monday, we looked at what each designation means (quick refresher: FATAL means it could kill you). Yesterday we looked at five chemicals that can cause mild systemic or irritant effects as a result of dermal exposure. Today we’ll look at four more substances with newly updated skin notations that should probably be taken a lot more seriously. These chemicals should definitely be labeled “Do Not Touch.”

Disulfoton, SK:SYS (FATAL). Disulfoton [CAS#: 297-04-4] is used primarily as an organophosphate pesticide. A body of evidence that includes dermal absorption studies, acute dermal toxicity studies, and one occupational exposure study led NIOSH to conclude that disulfoton is readily absorbed through the skin, can cause cholinesterase inhibition, and is acutely toxic and potentially fatal.

2-Hydroxypropyl acrylate, SK:SYS (FATAL)-DIR (COR)-SEN. 2-Hydroxypropyl acrylate (HPA) [CAS#: 999-61-1] is a monomer used in the manufacture of thermosetting resins for surface coatings, adhesives and sealants, textiles, paper coatings, fibers, and plastic copolymers. Although no dermal absorption data are available for HPA, acute toxicity data suggest that HPA is absorbed through the skin and has the potential to cause systemic effects, including death. It is designated as a corrosive based on occupational case reports and available animal data. Both human and animal patch tests have shown that HPA can cause skin sensitization.

Dimethyl sulfate, SK:SYS-DIR (COR). Dimethyl sulfate (DMS) [CAS#: 77-78-1] is primarily used as a methylating and sulfonating agent during the manufacturing of organic compounds. Limited information on systemic toxicity arising from dermal exposure is available on the chemical, but mathematical modeling supports what evidence there is. Available human and animal data show that DMS is irritating at low concentrations and corrosive at high doses and with prolonged exposure.

Trichloroethylene, SK:SYS-DIR (IRR)-SEN . Trichloroethylene (TCE) [CAS#: 79-01-6] is a chlorinated organic compound; it is used primarily as a solvent in metal degreasing operations and as a component of the refrigerant HFC-134a. It is also used as a spotting agent in dry-cleaning operations. Numerous case reports and case series, an occupational exposure study, and animal studies all provide evidence that TCE can cause liver and kidney dysfunction as a result of subchronic dermal exposures; occupational studies have also reported neurological effects. Undiluted TCE is known to be corrosive to the skin. Diluted TCE has been shown to cause skin whitening, redness due to irritation, and dermatitis in humans; animal studies have shown similar signs of irritation. One epidemiological study in humans, combined with isolated case reports, suggests that TCE may cause sensitization.