Multicentre patch test study of air-oxidized ethoxylated surfactants

Contact Dermatitis
Mihaly MaturaAnn-Therese Karlberg


Frequent exposure to water and surfactants is considered to be the main cause of hand eczema from wet work. Ethoxylated surfactants are susceptible to oxidation and some of the oxidation products formed have proved to be contact sensitizers in guinea pigs. The question of human sensitization to oxidized surfactants was addressed in a multicentre study in the Stockholm region. 528 consecutive dermatitis patients were patch tested with widely used ethoxylated surfactants in oxidized and non-oxidized form as well as certain identified oxidation compounds. 61 patients presented with mild, clearly irritant reactions to some of the surfactants tested. 18 patients showed not only erythema but also oedema and/or papules and vesicles, using a morphologic descriptive system for reading the patch test reactions. These reactions occurred mostly to oxidized surfactants and oxidation products. When retesting 9 of these 18 patients only an allergic reaction to acetaldehyde was confirmed. We conclude that oxidized ethoxylated surfactants have increased irritant potential compared to non-oxidized material. Our working hypothesis is that oxidized surfactants of technical quality exert a lower risk of sensitization than do oxidized homologous pur...Continue Reading


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