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The use of biomarkers of exposure of N,N-dimethylformamide in health risk assessment and occupational hygiene in the polyacrylic fibre industry
  1. H U Käfferlein1,
  2. C Ferstl1,
  3. A Burkhart-Reichl3,
  4. K Hennebrüder1,
  5. H Drexler1,
  6. T Brüning2,
  7. J Angerer1
  1. 1Institute and Outpatient Clinic of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
  2. 2Research Institute of Occupational Medicine of the Statutory Health Insurances (BGFA), Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany
  3. 3Medical Department of Acordis Acrylic Fibres Kelheim GmbH, Kelheim a.d. Donau, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr H U Käfferlein
 BGFA, Bürkle-de-la-Camp Platz 1, D-44789 Bochum, Germany;


Background:N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF) was recently prioritised for field studies by the National Toxicology Program based on the potency of its reproductive toxic effects.

Aims: To measure accurately exposure to DMF in occupational settings.

Methods: In 35 healthy workers employed in the polyacrylic fibre industry, N-methylformamide (NMF) and N-acetyl-S-(N-methylcarbamoyl)cysteine (AMCC) in urine, and N-methylcarbamoylated haemoglobin (NMHb) in blood were measured. Workplace documentation and questionnaire information were used to categorise workers in groups exposed to low, medium, and high concentrations of DMF.

Results: All three biomarkers can be used to identify occupational exposure to DMF. However, only the analysis of NMHb could accurately distinguish between workers exposed to different concentrations of DMF. The median concentrations were determined to be 55.1, 122.8, and 152.6 nmol/g globin in workers exposed to low, medium, and high concentrations of DMF, respectively. It was possible by the use of NMHb to identify all working tasks with increased exposure to DMF. While fibre crimpers were found to be least exposed to DMF, persons washing, dyeing, or towing the fibres were found to be highly exposed to DMF. In addition, NMHb measurements were capable of uncovering working tasks, which previously were not associated with increased exposure to DMF; for example, the person preparing the fibre forming solution.

Conclusions: Measurement of NMHb in blood is recommended rather than measurement of NMF and AMCC in urine to accurately assess exposure to DMF in health risk assessment. However, NMF and AMCC are useful biomarkers for occupational hygiene intervention. Further investigations regarding toxicity of DMF should focus on highly exposed persons in the polyacrylic fibre industry. Additional measurements in occupational settings other than the polyacrylic fibre industry are also recommended, since the population at risk and the production volume of DMF are high.

  • AMCC, N-acetyl-S-(N-methylcarbamoyl)cysteine
  • DMF, N,N-dimethylformamide
  • Hb, haemoglobin
  • HMMF, N-hydroxy-N-methylformamide
  • MIC, methyl isocyanate
  • NMF, N-methylformamide
  • NMHb, N-methylcarbamoylated haemoglobin
  • N,N-dimethylformamide
  • exposure assessment
  • haemoglobin adduct
  • polyacrylic fibre industry

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  • Competing interests: none declared