Data on individual exposure to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) in herbicide production plants are limited. Hence, the urinary excretion of this herbicide was measured during a five year (1985-1989) biological monitoring study of 27 men and 18 women employees exposed during the production and formulation of 2,4-D and related sodium and dimethylamine salts. In separate studies, specimens of urine were collected in the morning, or during the last three hours of a working shift, or over a 24 hour period (1200 to 1200 or 0800 to 0800) and were analysed by an immunochemical method (2,4-D radioimmunoassay (RIA)). Urinary 2,4-D concentrations varied within a large scale from only a few micrograms/l to several 10s of mg/l. During a week, herbicide excretion increased, culminating on Friday. At the weekend, when no work was done, 2,4-D elimination decreased but did not return to zero in any case. After an interruption of exposure for about three weeks, urinary 2,4-D was no longer detectable. About five days after restarting work, body concentrations had built up again. Measurements of 2,4-D concentrations in air at different work-places showed that herbicide concentrations did not exceed 0.5 mg/m3. As well as inhalation, dermal 2,4-D absorption seemed to play an important part in total uptake of herbicide. Furthermore, a strong correlation was found (r = 0.9628) between 2,4-D urinary concentration, adjusted for endogenous creatinine, and the estimated amount of absorbed herbicide. Estimated absorbed doses were, in most cases, well below 0.1 mg 2,4-D/kg body wt/day. Sometimes this concentration was greatly exceeded. Thyroid hormone concentrations in blood were measured as well. No notable abnormalities were found. Exposed subjects were also typed for histocompatibility locus antigens (ABC antigens). The immunochemical determination of 2,4-D in specimens of urine proved to be a simple, cost effective, and non-invasive method to measure human exposure.
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