Benzene exposure in car mechanics and road tanker drivers

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1998 Jun;71(4):277-83. doi: 10.1007/s004200050281.


The purpose of this study was to identify professional factors related to benzene exposure and to deduce suitable safety measures. Atmospheric benzene, urinary muconic acid (tt-MA) and leukocyte alkaline phosphatase activity (LAPA) were evaluated among 66 car mechanics, 34 road tanker drivers, and 28 nonexposed workers. Professional and medical questionnaires were filled in at the same time. Atmospheric benzene was significantly higher among road tanker drivers than among car mechanics. The arithmetic mean +/- SD, median, and geometric mean values were, respectively, 0.48 +/- 1.49, 0.14, and 0.06 mg/m3 among car mechanics and 1.88 +/- 4.18, 0.68, and 0.65 mg/m3 among road tanker drivers. In the latter case the increase was caused by transport of unleaded petrol and correlated with the volume of the tank. Among car mechanics, tobacco smoking, windy conditions, dismantling of petrol filters, and handling of petrol increased atmospheric benzene levels. Urinary muconic acid was increased significantly among car mechanics (148 +/- 137, 127, and 111 micrograms/g) and among road tanker drivers (309 +/- 420, 137, and 151 micrograms/g) as compared with the controls (49 +/- 46, 33, and 33 micrograms/g). Among road tanker drivers, alcohol intake and transportation of unleaded petrol increased the excretion of muconic acid, which was also directly related to the volume of the tank. Among car mechanics, professional factors (dismantling of petrol filters, handling of and washing of hands with petrol) and nonprofessional factors (tobacco smoking and damaged skin on the hands and forearms) increased muconic acid excretion. In the control group, tobacco smoking increased its excretion. LAPA was not significantly modified among exposed workers. There was a weak but significant linear correlation between LAPA and muconic acid. These results suggest that to reduce exposure to benzene in unleaded petrol, individual and collective safety measures should be imposed in both occupations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Automobiles*
  • Benzene / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / enzymology
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Mechanics
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sorbic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Sorbic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Transportation*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • muconic acid
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Benzene
  • Sorbic Acid