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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2013;76(12):723-46. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2013.821393.

An analysis of workplace exposures to benzene over four decades at a petrochemical processing and manufacturing facility (1962-1999).

Author information

  • 1ChemRisk, LLC, Boulder, Colorado 80303, USA. jennifer.sahmel@cardno.com

Abstract

Benzene, a known carcinogen, can be generated as a by-product during the use of petroleum-based raw materials in chemical manufacturing. The aim of this study was to analyze a large data set of benzene air concentration measurements collected over nearly 40 years during routine employee exposure monitoring at a petrochemical manufacturing facility. The facility used ethane, propane, and natural gas as raw materials in the production of common commercial materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, waxes, adhesives, alcohols, and aldehydes. In total, 3607 benzene air samples were collected at the facility from 1962 to 1999. Of these, in total 2359 long-term (>1 h) personal exposure samples for benzene were collected during routine operations at the facility between 1974 and 1999. These samples were analyzed by division, department, and job title to establish employee benzene exposures in different areas of the facility over time. Sampling data were also analyzed by key events over time, including changes in the occupational exposure limits (OELs) for benzene and key equipment process changes at the facility. Although mean benzene concentrations varied according to operation, in nearly all cases measured benzene quantities were below the OEL in place at the time for benzene (10 ppm for 1974-1986 and 1 ppm for 1987-1999). Decreases in mean benzene air concentrations were also found when data were evaluated according to 7- to 10-yr periods following key equipment process changes. Further, an evaluation of mortality rates for a retrospective employee cohort (n = 3938) demonstrated that the average personal benzene exposures at this facility (0.89 ppm for the period 1974-1986 and 0.125 ppm for the period 1987-1999) did not result in increased standardized mortality ratio (SMRs) for diseases or malignancies of the lymphatic system. The robust nature of this data set provides comprehensive exposure information that may be useful for assessing human benzene exposures at similar facilities. The data also provide a basis for comparable measured exposure levels and the potential for adverse health effects. These data may also prove beneficial for comparing relative exposure potential for production versus nonproduction operations and the relationship between area and personal breathing zone samples.

PMID:
23980839
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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