Occupational exposure of petroleum depot workers to BTEX compounds
M. Rezazadeh Azari
Z. Naghavi Konjin
M. D. Seyedi
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Background: Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) are the most important toxic volatile compounds in the air and could be easily absorbed through the respiratory tract. In recent years, the risk of exposure to BTEX compounds, especially benzene as a carcinogen, has been considered in petroleum depot stations. Objective: To assess the occupational exposure of petroleum depot workers in Iran to BTEX compounds. Methods: After completing a questionnaire and assessing occupational exposure to BTEX compounds, 78 (46 exposed and 32 non-exposed) depot workers were randomly selected to participate in this study. Air sampling and analysis of BTEX was conducted according to the NIOSH method No. 1501. Analysis of urinary hippuric acid, as an indicator of toluene exposure, was carried out according to NIOSH method No. 8300. Personal monitoring of the high exposure group to BTEX compounds was repeated to verify the results obtained in the first phase of the monitoring. Results: Among the 9 operating groups studied, occupational exposure to benzene and toluene was higher in quality control and gasoline loading operators-the median exposure ranged from 0.16 to 1.63 ppm for benzene and 0.2 to 2.72 ppm for toluene. Median exposure of other group members to BTEX compounds was below the detection limit of analytical method (0.07, 0.06, 0.05, and 0.05 ppm, respectively). The level of toluene exposure measured showed correlation with neither post-shift urinary hippuric acid (Spearman's rho=0.128, p=0.982) nor with the difference between post- and pre-shift urinary hippuric acid (Spearman's rho=0.089, p=0.847) in depot operational workers. Conclusion: Gasoline loading operators are exposed to a relatively high level of benzene.