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Benzene Exposure and Biomarkers in Alveolar Air and Urine Among Deck Crews on Tankers Transporting Gasoline

Journal article
Authors Karl Forsell
I. Liljelind
Göran Ljungkvist
Rolf Nordlinder
Eva Andersson
Ralph Nilsson
Published in Annals of Work Exposures and Health
Volume 63
Issue 8
Pages 890-897
ISSN 2398-7308
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Pages 890-897
Language en
Subject categories Environmental Health and Occupational Health


Introduction: Increased rates of leukaemia have been found among tanker crews. Occupational exposures to the leukomogen benzene during loading, unloading, and tank cleaning are possible causes. Studies on older types of tankers carrying gasoline with most handling being done manually have revealed important exposures to benzene. Our study explores benzene exposures on tankers with both automatic and manual systems. Correlations between benzene exposure and benzene in alveolar air (AlvBe), benzene in urine (UBe), and trans,trans-muconic acid (ttMA) in urine were investigated. Methods: Forty-three male seafarers (22 deck crewmembers and 21 not on deck) on five Swedish different product and chemical tankers transporting 95- or 98-octane gasoline were investigated between 1995 and 1998. The tankers used closed systems for the loading and unloading of gasoline but stripping and tank cleaning were done manually. Benzene in respiratory air was measured using personal passive dosimeters during a 4-h work shift. Samples for biomarker analyses were collected pre- and post-shift. Smoking did occur and crewmembers did not use any respiratory protection during work. Results: The average 4-h benzene exposure level for exposed was 0.45 mg m(-3) and for non-exposed 0.02 mg m(-3). Benzene exposure varied with type of work (range 0.02-143 mg m(-3)). AlvBe, UBe, and ttMA were significantly higher in post-shift samples among exposed and correlated with exposure level (r = 0.89, 0.74, and 0.57, respectively). Smoking did not change the level of significance among exposed. Discussion: Benzene in alveolar air, unmetabolized benzene, and ttMA in urine are potential biomarkers for occupational benzene exposure. Biomarkers were detectable in non-exposed, suggesting benzene exposure even for other work categories on board tankers. Work on tankers carrying gasoline with more or less closed handling of the cargo may still lead to significant benzene exposure for deck crewmembers, and even exceed the Swedish Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL; 8-h time-weighted average [TWA]) of 1.5 mg m(-3).

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