Levels of benzene and other volatile aromatic compounds in the blood of non-smokers and smokers

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1989;61(8):513-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00683121.


The concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and o-, m-and p-xylene were measured in venous blood samples collected from 13 non-smokers and 14 cigarette smokers. The blood samples were analysed by a purge and trap technique followed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry/computer analysis. The above-mentioned volatile organic compounds (VOC) could be detected in measurable amounts in all blood samples. This finding seems to reflect the ubiquitous exposure of humans to these agents in the urban environment, in non-smokers as well as in smokers. Smokers were found to have significantly higher blood concentrations of benzene (median 547 ng/l) and toluene (median 2201 ng/l) than non-smokers (median 190 ng/l and 1141 ng/l, respectively). The concentrations of ethylbenzene and xylenes also tended to be higher in smokers when compared to non-smokers. The different concentrations of these compounds in the blood of non-smokers appear to reflect the common concentration pattern found in outdoor urban air as well as in indoor air and also seem to be influenced by the different blood/air partition coefficients of these compounds. The results indicate that smoking is associated with a significant additional exposure to VOC, in particular to benzene and toluene.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Benzene Derivatives / blood*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Reference Values
  • Smoking / blood*
  • Toluene / blood*
  • Volatilization
  • Xylenes / blood


  • Benzene Derivatives
  • Xylenes
  • Toluene
  • ethylbenzene