A method for rapidly determining t,t-muconic acid (MA) by high performance liquid chromatography was developed and successfully applied to urine samples from 152 workers exposed to benzene (64 men, 88 women) and 213 non-exposed controls (113 men, 100 women). The MA concentrations in urine correlated linearly with time weighted average benzene concentrations in the breath zone air of workers. A cross sectional balance study showed that about 2% of benzene inhaled is excreted into the urine as MA. The MA concentrations in the urine of the non-exposed was below the detection limit (less than 0.1 mg/l) in most cases, and the 95% lower confidence limit of MA for those exposed to benzene at 5 ppm (5.0 mg/l as a non-corrected value) was higher than the 97.5%-tile values for the non-exposed (1.4 mg/l). In practice, it was possible to separate those exposed to 6-7 ppm benzene from the non-exposed by means of urine analysis for MA. The urinary MA concentration was suppressed by coexposure to toluene.
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