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Peripheral Chemosensory Irritation: Fundamentals, Investigation and Applied Considerations

Target Organ and Tissue Toxicity

  1. Bryan Ballantyne MD, DSc, PhD, FRCPath, FFOM, FACOEM, FAACT, FATS, FIBiol, CBiol

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat060

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Ballantyne, B. 2009. Peripheral Chemosensory Irritation: Fundamentals, Investigation and Applied Considerations. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. Independent Consultant in Occupational and Clinical Toxicology, Charleston, West Virginia, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Peripheral chemosensory irritation (PCSI) is a pharmacological effect in which xenobiotics interact with sensory nerve receptors in skin and mucosae to produce local sensation (discomfort, itching, burning sensation or pain), together the development of local reflexes and systemic (autonomic) reflexes. The effects subside after removal of the irritant stimulus and do not result in long-term adverse sequelae. The principal sites where PCSI effects develop are the eye, respiratory tract and skin. The effects produced are protective in nature. For example, with the eye there is pain, increased lacrimation and blepharospasm; these effects give a biological warning of the presence of a PCSI material in the immediate environment, and are protective in nature. The peripheral sensory effects may underlie some of the characteristics associated with the various types of idiopathic environmental intolerance, including multiple chemical sensitivity. Since the local sensory and reflex effects resulting from exposure to a potent sensory irritation (PSI) substance may be detrimental to safe and efficient working conditions, in many cases they may be used as a basis for assigning airborne occupational exposure limits. This review chapter discusses the nature of the PCSI response, receptor interactions and mechanisms, factors influencing response to PCSI effects, quantitation of the response, methods for measuring the PCSI response and the practical implications and applications of chemosensory irritation.


  • chemosensory irritation;
  • sensory receptor;
  • trigeminal nerve;
  • eye;
  • respiratory tract;
  • incapacitation;
  • occupational exposure guidelines;
  • in vitro studies;
  • in vivo studies;
  • environmental impact