Exposure to BTEX and Ethers in Petrol Station Attendants and Proposal of Biological Exposure Equivalents for Urinary Benzene and MTBE.

Research paper by Laura L Campo, Federica F Rossella, Rosa R Mercadante, Silvia S Fustinoni

Indexed on: 17 Dec '15Published on: 17 Dec '15Published in: The Annals of occupational hygiene


To assess exposure to benzene (BEN) and other aromatic compounds (toluene, ethylbenzene, m+p-xylene, o-xylene) (BTEX), methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), and ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) in petrol station workers using air sampling and biological monitoring and to propose biological equivalents to occupational limit values.Eighty-nine petrol station workers and 90 control subjects were investigated. Personal exposure to airborne BTEX and ethers was assessed during a mid-week shift; urine samples were collected at the beginning of the work week, prior to and at the end of air sampling.Petrol station workers had median airborne exposures to benzene and MTBE of 59 and 408 µg m(-3), respectively, with urinary benzene (BEN-U) and MTBE (MTBE-U) of 339 and 780ng l(-1), respectively. Concentrations in petrol station workers were higher than in control subjects. There were significant positive correlations between airborne exposure and the corresponding biological marker, with Pearson's correlation coefficient (r) values of 0.437 and 0.865 for benzene and MTBE, respectively. There was also a strong correlation between airborne benzene and urinary MTBE (r = 0.835). Multiple linear regression analysis showed that the urinary levels of benzene were influenced by personal airborne exposure, urinary creatinine, and tobacco smoking [determination coefficient (R (2)) 0.572], while MTBE-U was influenced only by personal exposure (R (2) = 0.741).BEN-U and MTBE-U are sensitive and specific biomarkers of low occupational exposures. We propose using BEN-U as biomarker of exposure to benzene in nonsmokers and suggest 1457ng l(-1) in end shift urine samples as biological exposure equivalent to the EU occupational limit value of 1 p.p.m.; for both smokers and nonsmokers, MTBE-U may be proposed as a surrogate biomarker of benzene exposure, with a biological exposure equivalent of 22 µg l(-1) in end shift samples. For MTBE exposure, we suggest the use of MTBE-U with a biological exposure equivalent of 22 µg l(-1) corresponding to the occupational limit value of 50 p.p.m.

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