Skin-sensitizing and irritant properties of propylene glycol: Data analysis of a multicentre surveillance network (IVDK*) and review of the literature

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In the several publications reviewed in this article, propylene glycol (PG; 1,2-propylene glycol) is described as a very weak contact sensitizer, if at all. However, particular exposures to PG-containing products might be associated with an elevated risk of sensitization. To identify such exposures, we analysed patch test data of 45 138 patients who have been tested with 20% PG in water between 1992 and 2002. Out of these, 1044 patients (2.3%) tested positively, 1083 showed a doubtful, follicular or erythematous reaction (2.4%) and 271 explicit irritant reactions (0.6%). This profile of patch test reactions is indicative of a slightly irritant preparation, and thus, many of the ‘weak positive’ reactions must probably be interpreted as false positive. No private or occupational exposures associated with an increased risk of PG sensitization were identified, except for lower leg dermatitis. Therefore, according to our patch test data, PG seems to exhibit very low sensitization potential, and the risk for sensitization to PG on uncompromised skin seems to be very low.

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