The relation between exposure to As2O3 fumes and dust, and the urinary excretion of inorganic arsenic metabolites (monomethylarsonic acid, dimethylarsinic acid, unchanged inorganic arsenic) has been studied in 18 workers from a sulphuric acid producing plant. The concentration of arsenic in the breathing zone of each worker was measured during five consecutive days and urine samples were obtained after one shift and before the next. The collection efficiency of the air sampling system exceeded 95%. The time weighted average exposure (TWA) concentrations of As2O3 ranged from 6 to 502 micrograms As/m3 and were log normally distributed. Although exposure probably occurred by ingestion as well as inhalation, statistically significant correlations (log scales) were found between airborne TWA of As2O3 and the inorganic arsenic metabolites in urine collected immediately after the shift, or just before the next shift. For a TWA of 50 micrograms As/m3, the mean concentration of the sum of the three inorganic arsenic metabolites in a postshift urine sample amounted to about 55 micrograms arsenic/g creatinine (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 47-62). Higher estimates of urinary arsenic reported by other authors are probably due either to the influence of dietary organoarsenicals when total arsenic is measured in urine or to a low retention efficiency of the air sampling system for As2O3 in the vapour phase.
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