Monitoring of occupational exposure to tetrachloroethene by analysis for unmetabolized tetrachloroethene in blood and urine in comparison with urinalysis for trichloroacetic acid

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Objective: The present study was initiated to examine a quantitative relationship between tetrachloroethene (TETRA) in blood and urine with TETRA in air, and to compare TETRA in blood or urine with trichloroacetic acid (TCA) in urine as exposure markers. Methods: In total, 44 workers (exposed to TETRA during automated, continuous cloth-degreasing operations), and ten non-exposed subjects volunteered to participate in the study. The exposure to vapor was monitored by diffusive sampling. The amounts of TETRA and TCA in end-of-shift blood and urine samples were measured by either head-space gas chromatography (HS-GC) or automated methylation followed by HS-GC. The correlation was examined by regression analysis. Results: The maximum time-weighted average (TWA) concentration for TETRA-exposure was 46 ppm. Regression analysis for correlation of TETRA in blood, TETRA in urine and TCA in urine, with TETRA in air, showed that the coefficient was largest for the correlation between TETRA in air and TETRA in blood. The TETRA in blood, in urine and in air correlated mutually, whereas TCA in urine correlated more closely with TETRA in blood than with TETRA in urine. The TCA values determined by colorimetry and by the GC method were very similar. The biological marker levels at a hypothetical exposure of 25 ppm TETRA were substantially higher in the present study than were the levels reported in the literature. Possible reasons are discussed. Conclusions: Blood TETRA is the best marker of occupational exposure to TETRA, being superior to the traditional marker, urinary TCA.

Received: 11 October 1999 / Accepted: 3 December 1999