N-nitroso compounds and man: sources of exposure, endogenous formation and occurrence in body fluids

Eur J Cancer Prev. 1997 Jun;6(3):226-68.


Based on recent analytical data, total human exogenous exposure to N-nitrosamines is estimated to be 1.10 mumol/day; the major exposure sources are the diet (0.79 mumol/may, 80-120 micrograms/day; 72%), occupational exposure (0.15-0.30 mumol/day; 25%), cigarette smoking (0.02 mumol/day, 3.4 micrograms/day; 2%), and miscellaneous minor sources, including pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, indoor and outdoor air (0.001 mumol/day, 0.1 micrograms/day; 1%). Excretion of apparent total N-nitroso compounds (ATNC) in healthy adults is estimated to be 1.30 +/- 1.05 mumol/day in urine and between 1.56 +/- 1.56 and 3.17 +/- 2.58 mumol/day in faeces. The excretion of volatile N-nitrosamines (N-nitrosodimethylamine), and N-nitrosamine acids and their derivatives (N-nitrososarcosine, N-nitrosoproline, N-nitrosothiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid and N-nitroso-2-methylthiazoline-4-carboxylic acid) accounts for approximately 0.03% and 16.0% of urinary ATNC, respectively. 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol and its O-glucuronide conjugate, two metabolites of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone present in urine of smokers, account for 0.2% of the urinary ATNC response; < 1.5 of the excretion of currently identified N-nitroso compounds in urine. The remaining N-nitroso compounds excreted in urine and those present in faeces are still unidentified. A crude mass balance between exogenous exposure and excretion in urine and faeces indicates that 45-75% of the total human exposure to N-nitroso compounds results through in vivo formation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Nitroso Compounds* / adverse effects
  • Nitroso Compounds* / metabolism
  • Nitroso Compounds* / urine
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Risk Assessment


  • Nitroso Compounds