The paper reviews and critically assesses the evidence on the relevance of various skin uptake pathways for engineered nanoparticles, nano-objects, their agglomerates and aggregates (NOAA). It focuses especially in occupational settings, in the context of nanotoxicology, risk assessment, occupational medicine, medical/epidemiological surveillance efforts, and the development of relevant exposure assessment strategies. Skin uptake of nanoparticles is presented in the context of local and systemic health effects, especially contact dermatitis, skin barrier integrity, physico-chemical properties of NOAA, and predisposing risk factors, such as stratum corneum disruption due to occupational co-exposure to chemicals, and the presence of occupational skin diseases. Attention should be given to: (1) Metal NOAA, since the potential release of ions may induce local skin effects (e.g. irritation and contact dermatitis) and absorption of toxic or sensitizing metals; (2) NOAA with metal catalytic residue, since potential release of ions may also induce local skin effects and absorption of toxic metals; (3) rigid NOAA smaller than 45nm that can penetrate and permeate the skin; (4) non rigid or flexible NOAA, where due to their flexibility liposomes and micelles can penetrate and permeate the intact skin; (5) impaired skin condition of exposed workers. Furthermore, we outline possible situations where health surveillance could be appropriate where there is NOAA occupational skin exposures, e.g. when working with nanoparticles made of sensitizer metals, NOAA containing sensitizer impurities, and/or in occupations with a high prevalence of disrupted skin barrier integrity. The paper furthermore recommends a stepwise approach to evaluate risk related to NOAA to be applied in occupational exposure and risk assessment, and discusses implications related to health surveillance, labelling, and risk communication.
Keywords: Nanomaterial; Nanoparticles; Skin absorption; Skin exposure.
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