Annals of Occupational Hygiene vol:50 issue:7 pages:665-77
The protection of workers from the potential harmful effects of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) poses a significant challenge for the drug manufacturing industry. The actual pathways through which pharmaceutical production workers are exposed to potent drugs and the processes resulting in actual uptake are up till now virtually unknown. In this study, a detailed exposure assessment survey was conducted in a pharmaceutical 'primary manufacturing' production facility during which environmental and biological exposure monitoring for potent opioid narcotic drugs was performed. On the occasion of multiple consecutive production days, personal half-shift air samples were collected and hand wipes were taken at the end of each half-shift and analysed for fentanyl. All environmental samples showed detectable amounts of fentanyl (>0.1 ng per sample), indicating a potential for both inhalation and dermal exposure. Spatial distribution of fentanyl dermal contamination was further investigated by means of patch samplers placed on five anatomical regions of the body. Body locations showing the highest level of fentanyl contamination were identified as the hands, the neck and lower arms. The effective uptake of fentanyl was demonstrated by the detection of this opioid in urine samples of the workers involved. Individual and group-level analysis of combined external and internal fentanyl exposure measures revealed a positive and significant correlation between fentanyl hand exposure and urinary excretion, while it seemed that the effect of inhalation exposure was largely due to its correlation with dermal exposure. The results of the established individual linear and mixed effects models strongly suggest that in most workers the dermal pathway is actually the primary route of fentanyl exposure.