The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of metabolism of acrylonitrile (ACN) to N-acetyl-S-(2-cyanoethyl)-L-cysteine (2-cyanoethylmercapturic acid (CEMA) in man, the kinetics of excretion of this metabolite, and the relation between the uptake of ACN and the excretion of CEMA in urine. Eleven experiments were performed on six male volunteers exposed for eight hours to ACN at concentrations of 5 or 10 mg/m3. The average respiratory retention of ACN was 52% and 21.8% of the retained ACN was excreted as CEMA in urine. Elimination approximated first order kinetics with half life of about eight hours. The best correlation between the uptake of ACN in the lungs and excretion of CEMA in urine was obtained when the concentration of CEMA in the urine fraction, collected between the sixth and eighth hours after the beginning of exposure, was adjusted to a specific gravity of 1.016 (y = 0.33x-13.3; r = 0.83). CEMA excretion, however, cannot be used as an individual index of exposure.
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