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An assessment of dermal exposure to semi-synthetic metal working fluids by different methods to group workers for an epidemiological study on dermatitis
  1. B van Wendel de Joode1,
  2. E P B Bierman4,
  3. D H Brouwer3,
  4. J Spithoven2,
  5. H Kromhout2
  1. 1Risk Assessment in the Work Environment, a collaborative centre between TNO Quality of Life and IRAS, Netherlands
  2. 2Environmental and Occupational Health Division, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
  3. 3TNO Quality of Life, Netherlands
  4. 4TNO Human Factors, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr H Kromhout
 Environmental and Occupational Health Division, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80176, 3508 TD Utrecht, Netherlands;


Background: Assessment of exposure assessment to metal working fluids (MWF) has almost exclusively focused on inhalation exposure.

Aims: To assess levels of, and factors affecting, dermal and inhalation exposure to semi-synthetic MWF, and to identify suitable dermal exposure grouping schemes among metal workers for an epidemiological survey on dermatitis of hands, forearms, and head.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in four metal working machining departments of a truck manufacturing plant, estimating dermal and inhalation exposure levels to semi-synthetic metal working fluids (SMWF) in machine operators. Dermal exposure levels to SMWF were estimated by three different methods for dermal exposure assessment (VITAE, surrogate skin pad method, and a semi-quantitative dermal exposure assessment method (DREAM)).

Results: The identified factors affecting dermal exposure were similar for the three methods, although differences were found for estimated variability in dermal exposure levels between groups, within groups (among workers), and from day to day. With the VITAE method differences in exposure levels were detected between workers that were not detected with the surrogate skin pad method, and only partly with the DREAM method.

Conclusions: Considering the additional effort and costs that use of the VITAE method entailed, the observational semi-quantitative DREAM method appeared to be more efficient for grouping of dermal exposure levels for the epidemiological study on dermatitis.

  • DREAM, dermal exposure assessment method
  • GM, geometric mean
  • LOD, limit of detection
  • MWF, metal working fluids
  • SMWF, semi-synthetic metal working fluids
  • VITAE, video imaging technique for assessing dermal exposure
  • skin exposure
  • epidemiology
  • grouping strategies
  • cutting fluids
  • machine operators

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  • Competing interests: none declared