Human styrene exposure

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The use of biological indicators to monitor workers' exposure to styrene requires a good understanding of the kinetics of the solvent in the organism. The absorption, distribution and elimination of styrene (STY), as well as the kinetics of formation and excretion of its metabolites (mandelic [MA] and phenylglyoxylic [PGA] acids) are simulated using a mathematical model. The results obtained compare well with experimental data for pulmonary (STY) and urinary (MA and PGA) excretion obtained during controlled human exposures. The model is then used to predict the behaviour of STY, MA and PGA during repeated occupational exposure. It is shown that the results are comparable to the data collected during field surveys in the polyester industry, if the level of physical activity of the workers is taken into account. This latter parameter appears to have a great influence on the urinary excretion of the metabolites. Based on the results obtained, biological limits of exposure are proposed (referenced to a TLV [threshold limit value] of 50 ppm) for MA and MA + PGA excretions in urine collected at the end of the shift (800 and 1000 mg/g creat.) and the next morning (150 and 300 mg/g creat.). Their validity is tested against experimental data obtained under field conditions.