Comparison of measured dermal dust exposures with predicted exposures given by the EASE expert system

Graeme W. Hughson*, John W. Cherrie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Estimation and Assessment of Substance Exposure (EASE) is a rule-based computer expert system used by regulatory authorities within the European Union to assist in assessing exposure for both new and existing substances. It can provide estimates of both inhalation exposure levels and dermal exposure levels to the hands and forearms. This article describes the results of a study in which measurements of workplace dermal zinc exposures were collected for an industry-wide risk assessment and also compared with the levels predicted by EASE. Measurements were obtained from subjects in seven different workplaces that were producing or working with zinc metal or zinc compounds. The work activities were grouped a priori into one of three categories used by EASE for dermal exposure assessment: 'non-dispersive use with intermittent direct handling', 'wide dispersive use with intermittent direct handling' and 'wide dispersive use with extensive direct handling'. The predicted exposure ranges for these categories are 0.1-1, 1-5 and 5-15 mg cm-2 day -1. Although the average measured exposure levels for each of the categories increased in line with the predictions from EASE, the model overestimated dermal exposure to the hands by a factor of ∼50 when the mid-point of the EASE range was compared with the measured mean exposure. Furthermore, a significant additional exposure was found on other parts of the workers' bodies for which EASE does not provide any estimates. Interpretation of the dermal exposure data was complicated by the use of protective gloves, which might have limited the amount of zinc dust adhering to the workers' skin. However, observation of the work activities suggested that the pattern of glove use was such that they would not provide a consistent level of protection. This study provided an opportunity to collect a large amount of dermal zinc exposure data for risk assessment purposes and also enabled a dermal sampling method to be developed and assessed. There is no standard method for dermal dust exposure measurement, and the choice of method was a key factor in the exposure estimation process. With regard to comparison with the EASE predictions, it is possible that EASE could appear to perform more accurately if its predictions were compared with measurements obtained using surrogate skin sampling methods. However, we believe that such sampling can provide a gross overestimate of the dust on the skin surface. We suggest that further development of the EASE system is necessary to ensure that it better reflects whole-body dermal exposures to dusts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-123
    Number of pages13
    JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005


    • Dermal exposure
    • Dermal sampling
    • EASE
    • Exposure assessment
    • Risk assessment
    • Zinc

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • General Health Professions


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