Dermal penetration potential of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in human and mouse skin

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2012;75(1):50-62. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2011.615108.


Recent data, using a murine model, have indicated that dermal exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) induces immune modulation, suggesting that this may be an important route of PFOA exposure. To investigate the dermal penetration potential of PFOA, serum concentrations were analyzed in mice following topical application. Statistically significant and dose-responsive increases in serum PFOA concentrations were identified. In vitro dermal penetration studies also demonstrated that PFOA permeates both mouse and human skin. Investigation into the mechanisms mediating PFOA penetration demonstrated that dermal absorption was strongly dependent upon the ionization status of PFOA. In addition, PFOA solid, but not 1% PFOA/acetone solution, was identified as corrosive using a cultured epidermis in vitro model. Despite its corrosive potential, expression of inflammatory cytokines in the skin of topically exposed mice was not altered. These data suggest that PFOA is dermally absorbed and that under certain conditions the skin may be a significant route of exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Caprylates / administration & dosage
  • Caprylates / metabolism
  • Caprylates / toxicity*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dermis / drug effects*
  • Dermis / metabolism
  • Dermis / pathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / administration & dosage
  • Fluorocarbons / metabolism
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects*


  • Caprylates
  • Cytokines
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctanoic acid