The objective of this study was to determine percutaneous absorption of lead compounds, including lead sulfate, lead oxide, lead powder, and lead stearate. The lead content on the skin surface of 10 lead-battery workers was measured by the method of skin stripping, and urinary lead content of rats was measured with epicutaneous application of four lead compounds: lead sulfate, lead oxide, lead powder, and lead stearate. There were significant amounts of lead on the 9th and 10th skin strippings of the dorsal hand and the back of lead workers. The amount of lead on the dorsal hand was significantly correlated with the amount in the blood (n = 10, r 2 = 0.66, p < 0.05, linear regression). In rats, after lead compounds were applied for 12 days, total lead amount in urine significantly increased to 146.0 +/- 6.4 ng (SD) for lead stearate, 123.1 +/- 7.2 ng for lead sulfate, 115.9 +/- 5.3 ng for lead oxide, 47.8 +/- 6.9 ng for lead powder, and 10.3 ng for the control, which indicated significant skin absorption. It was concluded that significant amounts of inorganic lead compounds can be absorbed through the skin, and skin protection in lead-working or any contaminated environment should be carefully considered.