Occupational toluene exposure was studied during the workshift and the morning after by the analysis of environmental air, alveolar air, and blood. Environmental toluene exposure was measured by both continuous and instantaneous sampling. Instantaneous environmental toluene concentrations correlated better with alveolar toluene concentrations (r = 0.94; n = 155) than with blood toluene concentrations (r = 0.71; n = 52). Continuous environmental toluene concentrations correlated better with blood toluene concentrations (r = 0.84; n = 65) than with alveolar toluene concentrations (r = 0.52; n = 46). During the workshift and the morning after, blood and alveolar toluene concentrations correlated significantly with each other (r = 0.75; n = 66 and r = 0.67; n = 52). In a group of workers who were exposed to a mean environmental toluene concentration of 146 micromilligrams the concentrations of toluene in the alveolar air and blood the morning after were 3.2 micromilligrams (SD = 1.7) and 27.5 micromilligrams (SD = 12.7) respectively. With regard to the morning after toluene determinations, blood concentrations correlated (r = 0.52; n = 52; p less than 0.001) better than the alveolar concentrations with the corresponding afternoon values (r = 0.36; n = 52; p less than 0.01). The decline of the toluene concentrations from the end of one workshift to the start of the next exposure indicated a mean toluene half life of 3.8 hours in the alveolar air and of 4.5 hours in blood and therefore the 17 hour interval between two consecutive workshifts was insufficient for the complete elimination of absorbed toluene.
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