Take a postage stamp. Stick it to your arm. You've just covered 16 million cells, 55 hairs, 8 meters of nerves, 17,000 nerve endings, 5 meters of blood vessels, 500 sweat glands, and 83 oil glands. You've also just wasted 44 cents. Your skin is marvelously complex. It is your largest organ, accounting for 10% of your body's mass. It is also the site of 15 to 20 percent of all reported work-related illnesses according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Skin can suffer direct, sensitizing, or systemic effects when exposed to hazardous chemicals. Direct exposure can corrode, irritate, bleach, or stain skin. Dermal exposure to chemicals such as nickel, glutaraldehyde, and chromium may sensitize the skin, causing or contributing to the onset of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) or other immune-mediated responses, such as airway hyper reactivity (asthma). Many commonly used chemicals in the workplace—pesticides, organic solvents—can be absorbed through the skin and potentially result in systemic toxicity. These agents enter the blood stream and cause health problems away from the site of entry. While our skin is marvelous, clearly it's no suit of armor.


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