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Occupational exposure to solvent mixtures: effects on health and metabolism.
  1. H Ukai,
  2. S Takada,
  3. S Inui,
  4. Y Imai,
  5. T Kawai,
  6. S Shimbo,
  7. M Ikeda
  1. Department of Public Health, Kyoto University Faculty of Medicine, Japan.


    Exposure monitoring by personal diffusive samplers, biological monitoring of toluene exposure by urinary hippuric acid determination, haematology, serum biochemistry for liver function, and a subjective symptom survey by questionnaire were conducted on 303 male solvent workers. They were exposed to a mixture of solvents including toluene (geometric mean 18 ppm), methyl ethyl ketone (MEK; 16 ppm), isopropyl alcohol (IPA; 7 ppm), and ethyl acetate (9 ppm). The intensity was mostly below unity using the additiveness formula based on current Japanese occupational exposure limits, but more than eight times unity at the maximum. The results were compared with the findings in 135 non-exposed male workers of similar ages. Haematology and liver function tests did not show any exposure related abnormality, and subjective symptoms were mostly related to central nervous system depression and local irritation. Further analysis suggested that the irritation effects were not related to exposure to MEK. Analysis of the relation between toluene exposure and hippuric acid excretion in urine showed that there was no metabolic interaction between MEK and toluene, or between IPA and toluene. Overall, therefore, it is concluded that there was no sign or symptom detected to suggest anything other than toluene toxicity, that there was no evidence to indicate any modification of toluene toxicity or metabolism due to coexposure, and that the additiveness assumption is reasonable for risk assessment for the combination of solvents under these exposure conditions.

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