In a group of 37 rotogravure printers a close correlation (rs = 0.78) was found between the time weighted toluene exposure during a five day working week (range 8-416 mg/m3, median 75) and the concentration of toluene in subcutaneous adipose tissue (range 1.1-20.7 mg/kg, median 3.8). After exposure ceased, the elimination of toluene was followed up in 11 subjects. The toluene concentration in venous blood decreased non-linearly and the elimination curves contained at least three exponential components. The first two had median estimated half times of nine minutes and two hours respectively. The third component, with a median half time of 90 hours, reflected the decline in adipose tissue, which had a median half time of 79 hours (range 44-178). The study showed protracted endogenous toluene exposure from adipose tissue depots long after the end of exogenous exposure. The observations also suggest that the blood toluene concentrations on Monday mornings might be used as an index of the exposure in the previous week.
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