Concentrations and stability of methyl methacrylate, glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde and nickel sulfate in commercial patch test allergen preparations


  • Disclaimers: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government.

  • This work was supported by NIOSH intramural research funds.

  • Conflicts of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Correspondence: Paul D. Siegel, Bioorganic Chemistry, ACIB/HELD/NIOSH/CDC, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505-2888, USA. Tel: +1 304 285 5855; Fax: +1 304 285 6126. E-mail:



Epicutaneous patch tests are used to reproduce allergy and diagnose allergic contact dermatitis. Reliable allergen test preparations are required.


The purpose of the present study was to measure the actual concentrations of nickel(II) sulfate hexahydrate (NiSO4), methyl methacrylate, formaldehyde, and glutaraldehyde, and to compare them with the labelled concentrations, in commercial patch test allergen preparations found in dermatology clinics where patch testing is routinely performed.

Materials and methods

The commercial in-date and out-of-date patch test allergen preparations concentrations of NiSO4, methyl methacrylate, formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde from one to three participating clinics were analysed with chromatographic or wet chemical techniques.


NiSO4 and formaldehyde concentrations were at or above the labelled concentrations; however, formaldehyde loss occurred with storage. NiSO4 particulate was uniformly distributed throughout the petrolatum. ‘In-use’ methyl methacrylate reagent syringes all contained ≤ 56% of the 2% label concentration, with no observable relationship with expiration date. Lower methyl methacrylate cocentrations were consistently measured at the syringe tip end, suggesting loss resulting from methyl methacrylate's volatility. The concentrations of glutaraldehyde patch test allergen preparations ranged from 27% to 45% of the labelled (1% in pet.) concentration, independently of expiration date.


Some false-negative methyl methacrylate, formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde patch test results may be attributable to instability of the test preparations.