Breath analysis is an attractive non-invasive procedure for screening workers exposed to solvents. It has been used in numerous laboratory based studies and for field research. Despite the obvious advantages in routine biological monitoring it has failed to become widely accepted as a tool in occupational hygiene. Recent advances in breath sampling and analysis are such that it is likely to become more widely used in the future. In this paper, the past 5 years have been reviewed to try to assess what developments might now contribute to the increased use of breath analysis in biological monitoring; in particular, the development of a selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer for real time direct analysis of trace gases in breath and the more immediately available and less expensive indirect methods involving collection devices with adsorbent tubes is important. The introduction of guidance values for biological monitoring with clear advice on sampling times and the recognition of the importance of quality assurance programmes will help improve confidence in the technique.
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