Urinary hydroxy-metabolites of naphthalene, phenanthrene and pyrene as markers of exposure to diesel exhaust

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2004 Jan;77(1):23-30. doi: 10.1007/s00420-003-0477-y. Epub 2003 Oct 17.


Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the exposure of bus-garage and waste-collection workers to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) derived from diesel exhaust by the measurement of levels of seven urinary PAH metabolites: 2-naphthol, 1-hydroxyphenanthrene, 2-hydroxyphenanthrene, 3-hydroxyphenanthrene, 1+9-hydroxyphenanthrene, 4-hydroxyphenanthrene and 1-hydroxypyrene.

Subjects and methods: One urine sample from each of 46 control persons, and one pre-shift and two post-shift spot urine samples from 32 exposed workers were obtained in winter and in summer. The metabolites were analysed after enzymatic hydrolysis by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with fluorescence detection.

Results: The sum of seven PAH metabolites (mean 3.94 +/- 3.40 and 5.60 +/- 6.37 micromol/mol creatinine in winter and summer, respectively) was higher [P=0.01, degrees of freedom (df) =61.2 and P=0.01, df=67.6 in winter and summer, respectively] in the exposed group than in the control group (mean 3.18 +/- 3.99 and 3.03 +/- 2.01 micromol/mol creatinine in winter and summer, respectively). The mean concentrations of 2-naphthol among exposed and controls ranged between 3.34 and 4.85 micromol/mol creatinine and 2.51 and 2.58 micromol/mol creatinine, respectively (P<0.01 in winter, P<0.03 in summer). The mean level of the hydroxyphenanthrenes in the samples of exposed workers was between 0.40 and 0.70 micromol/mol creatinine and in the control samples 0.40-0.60 micromol/mol creatinine. The concentration of 1-hydroxypyrene was higher among exposed workers in both pre-shift and post-shift samples (mean 0.10-0.15 micromol/mol creatinine) than in control group (mean 0.05-0.06 micromol/mol creatinine) in winter (P=0.002, df=78) and in summer (P<0.001, df=68).

Conclusions: The urinary hydroxy-metabolites of naphthalene, phenanthrene and pyrene showed low exposure to diesel-derived PAHs; however, it was higher in exposed workers than in control group. Urinary PAH monohydroxy-metabolites measured in this study did not correlate with the PAHs in the air samples, reported earlier, in 2002 and 2003.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naphthalenes / urine*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Phenanthrenes / urine*
  • Pyrenes / metabolism*
  • Seasons
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Naphthalenes
  • Phenanthrenes
  • Pyrenes
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • naphthalene
  • phenanthrene
  • pyrene