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Br J Ind Med. 1991 Nov;48(11):788-92.

Percutaneous absorption of 2-butoxyethanol vapour in human subjects.

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Division of Work and Environmental Physiology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Solna, Sweden.


Four male volunteers were exposed at rest for two periods of two hours, separated by a one hour exposure free interval, to 50 ppm 2-butoxyethanol (BE) vapour generated in an exposure chamber. During the first two hour period the men were exposed by mouth only via a respiratory valve connected by tubes to the exposure chamber. During the second exposure period the men were exposed by skin only while sitting inside the exposure chamber, naked except for shorts, and wearing a respiratory protection mask supplied with compressed air. Capillary blood samples were collected at regular intervals and analysed for BE by a gas chromatographic method. Two experiments separated by at least two weeks were carried out with each volunteer, one at "normal" (23 degrees C, 29% relative humidity) and one at raised (33 degrees C, 71% relative humidity) air temperature and humidity in the chamber. The average concentration in blood and the calculated rate of uptake of BE were about three to four times higher during dermal exposure than during inhalation exposure. These experiments suggest that dermal uptake of BE accounts for about 75% (45-85% in individual experiments) of the total uptake during whole body exposure to BE vapour. Thus it appears that the use of a respiratory protection mask will not protect efficiently against exposure to BE vapours. A tendency towards increased percutaneous absorption rate was seen in the raised temperature and humidity condition.

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