Environmental and lifestyle factors affect benzene uptake biomonitoring of residents near a petrochemical plant

Environ Int. 2012 Feb;39(1):2-7. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2011.09.001. Epub 2011 Oct 29.


Background: We monitored urinary benzene excretion to examine factors affecting benzene uptake in a sample of the general population living near a petrochemical plant.

Methods: Our study population included 143 subjects: 33 petrochemical plant workers (W) with low level occupational benzene exposure; 30 residents in a small town 2 km from the plant (2kmR); 26 residents in a second small town located 2 to 4 km from the plant (4kmR); and 54 urban residents 25km from the plant (25kmR). Exposure to benzene was evaluated by personal air sampling during one work-shift for the W group, and from 8.00 to 20:00 for general population subgroups, and by urinary benzene (BEN-U).

Results: Median airborne benzene exposure was 25, 9, 7 and 6 μg/m(3) benzene among the W, 2kmR, 4kmR, and 25kmR subgroups, respectively; the highest level was found among the workers, while there was no significant difference among the other groups. Median BEN-U was 2 to 14-fold higher in smokers compared to non-smokers; among non-smokers BEN-U was the highest in W (median 236 ng/L), and lower in the 2kmR (48 ng/L) and 4kmR (63 ng/L) subgroups than in the 25kmR (120 ng/L) subgroup. A multiple linear regression analysis, explaining up to 73% of BEN-U variability, confirmed that active smoking and airborne benzene most strongly affected BEN-U. Among the non-smoking, non-occupationally exposed study subjects, a positive association was found between BEN-U and the distance of residence from the plant. This association was explained by increased exposure to urban traffic emissions in the study group residing at a greater distance from the plant. Environmental tobacco smoke had a marginally positive role.

Conclusion: Among factors affecting benzene uptake in non-occupationally exposed individuals, urban residence contributes to benzene exposure more than residing in close proximity to a petrochemical plant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / urine
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Atmosphere / chemistry
  • Benzene / analysis*
  • Benzene / metabolism
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Environment
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Petroleum Pollution / analysis*
  • Petroleum Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / urine


  • Air Pollutants
  • Creatinine
  • Benzene
  • Cotinine