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Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 157–163 | Cite as

Pharmacokinetics of ethylene in man; body burden with ethylene oxide and hydroxyethylation of hemoglobin due to endogenous and environmental ethylene

  • J. G. Filser
  • B. Denk
  • M. Törnqvist
  • W. Kessler
  • L. Ehrenberg
Original Investigations

Abstract

The inhalation pharmacokinetics and the endogenous production of ethylene has been determined in healthy volunteers with respect to the formation of the carcinogen ethylene oxide. Ethylene showed a low degree of accumulation in the body determined in six subjects, the thermodynamic partition coefficient “body/air” being 0.53±0.23 (mean ± SD) and the accumulation factor “body/air” at steady-state being 0.33±0.13 (mean ± SD). The rate of metabolism was directly proportional to the exposure concentration. Only 2% of ethylene inhaled was metabolized to ethylene oxide, whereas 98% of ethylene was exhaled unchanged. The rate of the endogenous production of ethylene was 32±12 nmol/h (mean ± SD), as calculated from exhalation data from 14 subjects. The resulting body burden was 0.44±0.19 nmol/kg (mean ± SD). By analyzing published data on ethylene oxide in man its half-life was estimated to be 42 min. Using the pharmacokinetic parameters of ethylene and ethylene oxide, the body burden of ethylene oxide due to the sum of the exposure to environmental ethylene of about 15 ppb and to endogenous ethylene exposure of 0.44 nmol/kg was predicted to be 0.25 nmol/kg. In the blood of five nonsmokers and one smoker the hemoglobin adduct resulting from the reaction of ethylene oxide with the N-terminal valine, N-(2-hydroxyethyl)valine, was quantified by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The value of 20±5 pmol/g Hb (mean ± SD) found in the non-smokers corroborated the steady-state level of 18±3 pmol/g Hb (mean ± SD) calculated from the pharmacokinetic approach.

Key words

Ethylene Ethylene oxide Pharmacokinetics Hemoglobin adduct Man 

Abbreviations

HOEtVal

N-(2-hydroxyethyl)valine

PFPTH

pentafluorophenylthiohydantoin

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. G. Filser
    • 1
  • B. Denk
    • 1
  • M. Törnqvist
    • 2
  • W. Kessler
    • 1
  • L. Ehrenberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für ToxikologieGSF-Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und GesundheitNeuherbergFRG
  2. 2.Department of RadiobiologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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