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Cutaneous relates to or affects the skin.
Subcutaneous refers to being below the skin (as in a penetrating injury, injection or intravenous line).
Percutaneous refers to being passed, done or effected through the skin. For example, some materials pass through exposed skin, causing poisoning.
Some chemical solvents such as dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) have the ability to easily and rapidly carry dissolved substances through the skin and into the body. Solutions of such materials therefore need to be treated with great respect and proper precautions (see below). Others, such as many phenols, can rapidly penetrate your skin on their own and are exceedingly toxic upon such dermal exposure.
Corrosive chemicals such as acids and bases can cause immediate and potentially irreversible damage to unprotected skin. While most acids are easily rinsed off, hydrofluoric acid (HF) can penetrate skin painlessly and without obvious signs of damage...and then then cause severe internal damage or death; see our acid entry for more on HF. Bases (alkalis; caustics) also penetrate skin and are not easily removed by rinsing. See our corrosive entry for more on water flushing as a first aid measure.
This term appears on SDS's in many contexts. For example, you may see the terms "cutaneous exposure", "cutaneous hazard", "cutaneous irritation" or "cutaneous absorption" to describe the effects of getting the material on your skin or "cutaneous route" to describe how the material can get into your body. The term may also refer to animal testing methods.
Use your SDS to determine the required personal protective equipment (PPE) that you must use. Protecting the skin (with gloves, aprons, coveralls, face masks etc.) is important. After all, the skin is the largest organ in the human body.
Remember that gloves are not impermeable or resistant to all substances. Some gloves are completely ineffective against certain types of chemicals. See the links under Further Reading in our dermal entry for some glove selection guides.
See also: dermal, dermatosis, erythema, gangrene, urticaria.
Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.
Entry last updated: Saturday, April 14, 2018. This page is copyright 2000-2019 by ILPI. Unauthorized duplication or posting on other web sites is expressly prohibited. Send suggestions, comments, and new entry desires (include the URL if applicable) to us by email.
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