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Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2000 Jun;15(6):485-91.

Exposures to jet fuel and benzene during aircraft fuel tank repair in the U.S. Air Force.

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Industrial Hygiene Branch, Air Force Institute for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Risk Analysis, Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, USA.


Jet fuel and benzene vapor exposures were measured during aircraft fuel tank entry and repair at twelve U.S. Air Force bases. Breathing zone samples were collected on the fuel workers who performed the repair. In addition, instantaneous samples were taken at various points during the procedures with SUMMA canisters and subsequent analysis by mass spectrometry. The highest eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) fuel exposure found was 1304 mg/m3; the highest 15-minute short-term exposure was 10,295 mg/m3. The results indicate workers who repair fuel tanks containing explosion suppression foam have a significantly higher exposure to jet fuel as compared to workers who repair tanks without foam (p < 0.001). It is assumed these elevations result from the tendency for fuel, absorbed by the foam, to volatilize during the foam removal process. Fuel tanks that allow flow-through ventilation during repair resulted in lower exposures compared to those tanks that have only one access port and, as a result, cannot be ventilated efficiently. The instantaneous sampling results confirm that benzene exposures occur during fuel tank repair; levels up to 49.1 mg/m3 were found inside the tanks during the repairs. As with jet fuel, these elevated benzene concentrations were more likely to occur in foamed tanks. The high temperatures associated with fuel tank repair, along with the requirement to wear vapor-permeable cotton coveralls for fire reasons, could result in an increase in the benzene body burden of tank entrants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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