The kinetics of inhaled methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) at a concentration of 200 ppm for four hours were studied in volunteers after swallowing ethanol at a dose of 0.8 g/kg. Ethanol was given either before or at the end of the exposure to MEK. The blood concentrations of MEK, 2-butanol, and 2,3-butanediol were monitored during and after the exposure. MEK concentrations in exhaled air and MEK and 2,3-butanediol concentrations in urine were also measured. Ethanol inhibited the primary oxidative metabolism of MEK and caused an increase in the blood concentrations of MEK and 2-butanol after ingestion. Ethanol ingestion, through higher blood MEK concentrations, also increased the elimination of MEK in the urine and exhaled air. Ethanol taken before exposure to MEK reduced the serum concentration of 2,3-butanediol initially but there was an increase about eight hours after the exposure. Urinary excretion of 2,3-butanediol followed the same pattern. Prior ingestion of ethanol thus seemed to interfere with the metabolism of 2,3-butanediol during and after exposure to MEK.
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