OBJECTIVE--To conduct a field study to obtain information on the urinary concentrations of aluminium (Al) and fluoride (F-) depending on the different compounds exposed to in the aluminum industry. METHODS--16 workers from one plant that produced aluminium fluoride (AlF3), and from two plants that produced aluminium electrolytically by two different processes participated in the study for one working week. Pollutants were monitored by eight hour personal sampling every day, and urine samples were collected during the week. Al and F- were analysed in both atmospheric and urine samples by atomic absorption spectrometry and an ion selective electrode. RESULTS--The principal results show different characteristics of kinetic curves of Al and F- excretion in workers with different exposures. Some characteristics of excretory peaks were linked to specific exposures--for instance, after exposure to AlF3 there was one delayed Al peak associated with one delayed F- peak about eight hours after the end of the daily shift, and after mixed exposure to HF and AlF3, two F- peaks were noted, one fast peak at the end of the shift and another delayed peak at 10 hours synchronised with an Al peak. In one of the electrolysis plants, the exposure to Al and F- compounds led to the simultaneous excretion of Al and F- peaks, either as a single peak or two individual ones depending on the type of technology used on site (open or enclosed potlines). The average estimated half life of Al was 7.5 hours, and of F- about nine hours. Quantitative relations between excretion and exposure showed an association between the F- atmospheric limit value of 2.5 mg/m3 with a urinary F- concentration of 6.4 mg/g creatinine at the end of the shift, a peak of 7.4 mg/g creatinine, and 7.4 mg excreted a day. For Al, the exposure to 1.36 mg/m3 during the shift corresponded to a urinary concentration at the end of the shift of 200 microgram/g creatinine. Daily excretion of 200 micrograms corresponded to an exposure to 0.28 mg/m3. CONCLUSION--Particular differences in the behaviour of Al and F- in urine depended upon the original molecular form in the pollutant. These results reinforce the principle that, in biological monitoring, the sampling strategy and the choice of limit value should be dependent on kinetic data that take the exposure compound of the element in question into account.
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