During the last few years the general interest in the percutaneous absorption of chemicals has increased. It is generally accepted that there is very few reliable quantitative and qualitative data on dermal exposure to chemicals in the general population and in occupationally exposed workers. In order to predict the systemic risk of dermally absorbed chemicals and to enable agencies to set safety standards, data is needed on the rates of percutaneous penetration of important chemicals. Standardization of in vitro tests and comparison of their results with the in vivo data could produce internationally accepted penetration rates and/or absorption percentages very useful for regulatory toxicology. The work of the Percutaneous Penetration Subgroup of EC Dermal Exposure Network has been focussed on the standardization and validation of in vitro experiments, necessary to obtain internationally accepted penetration rates for regulatory purposes. The members of the Subgroup analyzed the guidelines on percutaneous penetration in vitro studies presented by various organizations and suggested a standardization of in vitro models for percutaneous penetration taking into account their individual experiences, literature data and guidelines already in existence. During the meetings of Percutaneous Penetration Subgroup they presented a number of short papers of up to date information on the key issues. The objective was to focus the existing knowledge and the gaps in the knowledge in the field of percutaneous penetration. This paper is an outcome of the meetings of the Percutaneous Penetration Subgroup and reports the presentations on the key issues identified throughout the 3-year duration of the Dermal Exposure Network (1997-1999).
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