Biomonitoring-based exposure assessment of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene among workers at petroleum distribution facilities

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2018 Mar;149:19-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2017.10.070. Epub 2017 Nov 13.


Elevated emissions of volatile organic compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and o, p, and m-xylenes (BTEX), are an occupational health concern at oil transfer stations. This exploratory study investigated personal exposure to BTEX through environmental air and urine samples collected from 50 male workers at a major oil distribution company in Iran. Airborne BTEX exposures were evaluated over 8h periods during work-shift by using personal passive samplers. Urinary BTEX levels were determined using solid-phase microextraction with gas chromatography mass spectrometry for separation and detection. Mean exposure to ambient concentrations of benzene differed by workers' job type: tanker loading workers (5390μg/m3), tank-gauging workers (830μg/m3), drivers (81.9μg/m3), firefighters (71.2μg/m3) and office workers (19.8μg/m3). Exposure across job type was similarly stratified across all personal exposures to BTEX measured in air samples with maximum concentrations found for tanker loading workers. Average exposures concentrations of BTEX measured in urine were 11.83 ppb benzene, 1.87 ppb toluene, 0.43 ppb ethylebenzene, and 3.76 ppb xylene. Personal air exposure to benzene was found to be positively associated with benzene concentrations measured in urine; however, a relationship was not observed to the other BTEX compounds. Urinary exposure profiles are a potentially useful, noninvasive, and rapid method for assessing exposure to benzene in a developing and relatively remote production region.

Keywords: Biomonitoring; Occupational exposures; Oil distribution facility; Urinary BTEX.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / urine*
  • Benzene / analysis
  • Benzene Derivatives / urine
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Petroleum / analysis*
  • Toluene / urine
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / urine*
  • Xylenes / urine


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Benzene Derivatives
  • Petroleum
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Xylenes
  • Toluene
  • Benzene
  • ethylbenzene