Objective Description of current exposure levels of benzene and other organic compounds among workers in the petroleum industry.
Materials A total of 2578 air measurements taken by 12 oil - and service companies were evaluated and summarised in a database. The data includes personal full-shift samples and measurements on specific tasks.
Results Most samples were from offshore installations (70%). 93 chemical agents were detected in the samples. Of these, 11 agents were measured in 100 or more samples including aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene n = 853, toluene n = 1014, xylene isomers n = 987, and ethylbenzene n = 939) and alkanes (n-hexane n = 856, oil vapour n = 130, oil mist n = 132). 66% of the chemical agents were measured in less than 11 samples. In total, 299 work tasks were described in the reports.
Generally, personal exposure levels of full-shift samples of benzene (median = 0.005 ppm), toluene (median = 0.005 ppm), ethylbenzene (median = 0.001 ppm), xylene (all isomers) (median = 0.005), and n-hexane (median = 0.003) were low compared to Norwegian 12-hour time-weighted average occupational exposure limits of 0.6 ppm, 15 ppm, 3 ppm, 15 ppm, and 12 ppm, respectively.
The highest personal air levels were reported when performing tasks such as cleaning of tanks, opening of processing units, changing of filters, and sampling from the petroleum stream.
Conclusion Although much of the monitoring data has been conducted for control evaluation and compliance, they provide a basis for industrial hygienists and exposure assessors to identify work tasks and jobs where exposures are likely, and provide an overview of current exposure levels. This work also shows that for most agents the exposure data is extremely sparse and therefore there is a need to measure chemical exposures in this industry.
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