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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon skin permeation efficiency in vitro is lower through human than pigskin and decreases with lipophilicity.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are persistent environmental pollutants, which occasionally appear as contaminants in consumer products. Upon dermal contact, transfer of PAH into the stratum corneum (s.c.) and migration through the skin may occur, resulting in this class of highly toxic compounds to become bioavailable. In this study, dermal penetration through human and porcine skin of 24 PAH, comprising broad mass (152-302 g/mol) and octanol-water partition coefficient (logP: 3.9-7.3) ranges, was evaluated via Franz diffusion cell in vitro assays. More lipophilic and potentially more toxic PAH had decreased permeation rates through the rather lipophilic s.c. into the more hydrophilic viable (epi-)dermis. Furthermore, human skin was less permeable than pigskin, a commonly used surrogate frequently applied in skin penetration studies. In particular, the s.c. of human skin retains a greater share of PAH, an effect that is more pronounced for smaller PAH. Moreover, we compared the skin permeation kinetics of different PAH in pigskin. While small PAH (< 230 g/mol, logP < 6) permeate the skin quickly and are detected in the receptor fluid after 2 h, large PAH (> 252 g/mol, logP ≥ 6) do not fully permeate the skin up to 48 h. This indicates that highly lipophilic PAH do not become bioavailable as readily as their smaller congeners when transferred to the skin surface. Our data suggest that pigskin could be used as a surrogate for worst case scenario estimates of dermal PAH permeation through human skin.

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