The relationship between inadvertent ingestion and dermal exposure pathways: a new integrated conceptual model and a database of dermal and oral transfer efficiencies

Melanie Ng Gorman, Sean Semple, John W. Cherrie, Yvette Christopher, Christine Northage, Erik Tielemans, Violaine Veroughstraete, Martie Van Tongeren

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    29 Citations (Scopus)


    Occupational inadvertent ingestion exposure is ingestion exposure due to contact between the mouth and contaminated hands or objects. Although individuals are typically oblivious to their exposure by this route, it is a potentially significant source of occupational exposure for some substances. Due to the continual flux of saliva through the oral cavity and the non-specificity of biological monitoring to routes of exposure, direct measurement of exposure by the inadvertent ingestion route is challenging; predictive models may be required to assess exposure. The work described in this manuscript has been carried out as part of a project to develop a predictive model for estimating inadvertent ingestion exposure in the workplace. As inadvertent ingestion exposure mainly arises from hand-to-mouth contact, it is closely linked to dermal exposure. We present a new integrated conceptual model for dermal and inadvertent ingestion exposure that should help to increase our understanding of ingestion exposure and our ability to simultaneously estimate exposure by the dermal and ingestion routes. The conceptual model consists of eight compartments (source, air, surface contaminant layer, outer clothing contaminant layer, inner clothing contaminant layer, hands and arms layer, perioral layer, and oral cavity) and nine mass transport processes (emission, deposition, resuspension or evaporation, transfer, removal, redistribution, decontamination, penetration and/or permeation, and swallowing) that describe event-based movement of substances between compartments (e.g. emission, deposition, etc.). This conceptual model is intended to guide the development of predictive exposure models that estimate exposure from both the dermal and the inadvertent ingestion pathways. For exposure by these pathways the efficiency of transfer of materials between compartments (for example from surfaces to hands, or from hands to the mouth) are important determinants of exposure. A database of transfer efficiency data relevant for dermal and inadvertent ingestion exposure was developed, containing 534 empirically measured transfer efficiencies measured between 1980 and 2010 and reported in the peer-reviewed and grey literature. The majority of the reported transfer efficiencies (84%) relate to transfer between surfaces and hands, but the database also includes efficiencies for other transfer scenarios, including surface-to-glove, hand-to-mouth, and skin-to-skin. While the conceptual model can provide a framework for a predictive exposure assessment model, the database provides detailed information on transfer efficiencies between the various compartments. Together, the conceptual model and the database provide a basis for the development of a quantitative tool to estimate inadvertent ingestion exposure in the workplace.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1000-1012
    Number of pages13
    JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


    • Dermal exposure
    • Determinants of exposure
    • Exposure modelling
    • Inadvertent ingestion exposure
    • Occupational exposure

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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