• fiber-reinforced plastic;
  • boat manufacturing;
  • biological markers;
  • styrene workers;
  • exhaled breath monitoring;
  • low level occupational exposure


A field study was conducted on 39 male workers exposed to styrene at concentrations below 40 ppm (time weighted average, TWA). Analyses were carried out on environmental air, exhaled air, blood, urine, and two major urinary metabolites of styrene: mandelic acid (MA) and phenylglycoxylic acid (PGA). Head space gas chromatography (GC) with a flame ionization detector (FID) was used for determination of styrene in blood and urine. Postexposure exhaled air was analyzed using capillary GC. Environmental styrene exposure was measured by personal sampling using carbon cloth personal samplers. Urinary metabolites of styrene were determined by high pressure liquid chromatograph (HPLC). When the end-of-shift breath, blood, and urine styrene levels were compared with environmental TWA values, blood styrene correlated best with styrene in air (r = 0.87), followed by breath styrene (r = 0.76). Poor correlation (r = 0.24) was observed between environmental styrene exposure and urine styrene. When styrene metabolites were compared with environmental styrene, the sum of urinary MA and PGA correlated better with styrene in air than MA or PGA alone. The correlations between urinary metabolites and environmental styrene improved when corrected for the specific gravity of urine. Even better correlations were observed when the urinary metabolites were corrected for creatinine. The correlation coefficients for environmental styrene and end-of-shift MA, PGA, and MA + PGA were 0.83, 0.84, and 0.86, respectively. The correlation coefficients between environmental styrene and next morning urinary metabolites fell to 0.47, 0.61, and 0.65 for MA, PGA, and MA + PGA, respectively. These results suggest that determination of the total MA and PGA in urine samples is preferred than separate measurements of MA or PGA. The good correlation between environmental exposure and styrene in the exhaled air also suggests that breath styrene level can be a useful indicator for low level styrene exposure, as the method is specific, noninvasive, and rapid. Urinary styrene seems to be a less reliable indicator for low level styrene exposure. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.