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Biological monitoring of low-level 2-butoxyethanol exposure in decal transfer workers in bicycle manufacturing factories
  1. Po-Chen Hung1,2,
  2. Shu-Fang Cheng1,
  3. Saou-Hsing Liou3,
  4. Shih-Wei Tsai2
  1. 1Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Council of Labour Affairs, Sijhih City, Taipei, Taiwan
  2. 2Institute of Environmental Health, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
  3. 3Division of Environmental Health and Occupational Medicine, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli, Taiwan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shih-Wei Tsai, Institute of Environmental Health, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, No. 17, Xuzhou Rd, Taipei, Taiwan; shihweitsai{at}


Objectives In this study, exposures to ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (or 2-butoxyethanol, 2-BE) in decal transfer workers in the bicycle manufacturing industry were investigated. Personal air sampling and biological monitoring were used to assess total uptake through inhalation and dermal exposure. Haemoglobin was also analysed to evaluate the effects of exposure on the haematopoietic system.

Methods 80 workers in two bicycle factories completed a questionnaire. NIOSH method 1403 was adopted for air sampling and analysis of 2-BE. Prework and postwork urine samples were also collected for determination of total 2-butoxyacetic acid (BAA) after hydrolysis. Haemoglobin tests were performed using an automated haemoglobin analysis system.

Results The 31 decal transfer workers whose hands were in direct contact with a dilute aqueous solution of 2-BE, were exposed to an average of 1.7 ppm (8.1 mg/m3) of 2-BE in air. Correlation of 2-BE in air and postshift urinary BAA levels (after hydrolysis) was poor. Postshift total BAA levels in urine on Monday and Friday (446.8 and 619.4 mg/g creatinine) were around 223% and 310% of the ACGIH proposed Biological Exposure Index (BEI; 200 mg/g creatinine). Higher levels of total BAA were observed in the urine of subjects exposed to low-level 2-BE in air, presumably because of direct dermal contact.

Conclusions The mean preshift BAA on Friday was significantly higher than that on Monday, implying that the more days of exposures, the higher the accumulation. Since accumulation occurred with low-level exposure to 2-BE, it is recommended that urine samples be collected at the end of the working week.

  • 2-Butoxyethanol
  • hydrolyzed 2-butoxyacetic acid
  • biological monitoring
  • accumulation
  • chemical sampling
  • exposure monitoring
  • solvents

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  • Funding The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Council of Labor Affairs, Executive Yuan, Taiwan funded this study.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the IRB of the College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.