Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health vol:20 pages:451-458
OBJECTIVES--A field study was undertaken to investigate the effects of occupational styrene exposure on mandelic acid excretion and the formation of styrene-7,8-oxide hemoglobin adducts. Especially the sensitivity of a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method for determining hemoglobin adducts was evaluated. METHODS--Over a four-week period, each individual of a group of 52 fiberglass-reinforced plastics workers was monitored once a week by the simultaneous measurement of styrene in the air and urinary postshift mandelic acid. In addition mandelic acid and hemoglobin adducts were monitored in a group of 24 unexposed referents. At the end of the monitoring period styrene-7,8-oxide adduct formation on N-terminal valine in hemoglobin was examined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry according to the modified Edman degradation technique. RESULTS--Personal air samples showed an average styrene exposure of 31 mg.m-3. The average postshift mandelic acid was 98 mg.g creatinine-1. For workers not wearing respirators and not showing breath ethanol, the correlation coefficient between styrene and mandelic acid was 0.78. The blood samples were analyzed for styrene-7,8-oxide adducts on hemoglobin. With a detection limit of 10 pmol.g-1, no styrene-7,8-oxide adducts were found under these exposure conditions. CONCLUSION--Adduct formation in humans is less effective than in mice. In comparison with ethylene, styrene is at least 70 times less effective in forming hemoglobin adducts. Investigating adduct formation in humans at or below the exposure levels reported in this study would require a detection limit of about one order of magnitude better.