Urine samples were collected from 152 workers (64 men, 88 women) who had been exposed to benzene, 53 workers (men only) exposed to a mixture of benzene and toluene, and 213 non-exposed controls (113 men, 100 women). The samples were analysed for 1,2,4-benzentriol (a minor metabolite of benzene) by high performance liquid chromatography. The time weighted average solvent exposure of each worker was monitored by diffusive sampling technique. The urinary concentration of 1,2,4-benzentriol related linearly to the intensity of exposure to benzene both in men and women among workers exposed to benzene, and was suppressed by toluene co-exposure among male workers exposed to a mixture of benzene and toluene. A cross sectional balance study in men at the end of the shift of a workday showed that only 0.47% of benzene absorbed will be excreted into urine as 1,2,4-benzenetriol, in close agreement with previous results in rabbits fed benzene. The concentration of 1,2,4-benzenetriol in urine was more closely related to the concentration of quinol than that of catechol. The fact that phenol and quinol, but not catechol, are precursors of 1,2,4-benzentriol in urine was further confirmed by the intraperitoneal injection of the three phenolic compounds to rats followed by urine analysis for 1,2,4-benzenetriol.
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