Biological exposure limit for occupational exposure to coal tar pitch volatiles at cokeovens

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1992;63(8):511-6. doi: 10.1007/BF00386338.


Biological monitoring is an efficient tool in the evaluation of exposure to chemical agents. However, the dose-response of adverse health effects using biological exposure indices and biological limit values are rarely available. This paper presents an estimation of the occupational exposure limit value of 1-hydroxypyrene in urine, a biological exposure indicator of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). A large-scale study of the exposure of cokeoven workers to PAH, in which both air sampling (benzene soluble matter and individual PAH including benzo(a)pyrene) and biological monitoring (1-hydroxypyrene in urine) were applied, made it possible to establish an empirical mathematical relationship between the air sampling data and biological monitoring data. It was calculated that cokeoven workers with a urinary concentration of 1-hydroxypyrene of 2.3 mumol/mol creatinine after a 3-day working period equals the airborne threshold limit value (TLV) of coal tar pitch volatiles (CTPV). Epidemiological studies have quantified the relative risk of lung cancer for topside and non-topside cokeoven workers. The published environmental exposure data of topside and non-topside cokeoven workers were used to determine the time-average exposure. The data of 1-hydroxypyrene in the urine of cokeoven workers and data of epidemiological studies from different coke plants were combined according to the concentrations of PAH in the air. Thus, it was possible to establish an indirect relationship between lung cancer mortality risk and the biological exposure indicator for cokeoven workers. Exposure at the level of the suggested tentative biological exposure limit (BEL) of 2.3 mumol/mol creatinine is estimated to be equal to a relative risk of lung cancer of approximately 1.3.

MeSH terms

  • Coal*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Compounds / analysis*
  • Pyrenes / analysis*


  • Coal
  • Polycyclic Compounds
  • Pyrenes
  • 1-hydroxypyrene