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J Toxicol Environ Health. 1996 Jan;47(1):31-46.

Human exposure to naturally occurring hydroquinone.

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Biochemical Toxicology Section, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, New York 14652-6272, USA.


Hydroquinone (HQ) is a nonvolatile chemical used in the photographic, rubber, chemical, and cosmetic industries. HQ is also known to occur in nature as the beta-D-glucopyranoside conjugate (arbutin), and free HQ is a known component of cigarette smoke. Low concentrations of HQ have been detected in the urine and plasma of humans with no occupational or other known exposure to HQ. The studies reported here investigate dietary and other potential sources of HQ and their contribution to HQ concentrations in the plasma and urine of human volunteers. Analysis of possible food sources of HQ by GC indicated significant amounts of arbutin in wheat products (1-10 ppm), pears (4-15 ppm), and coffee and tea (0.1 ppm). Free HQ was found in coffee (0.2 ppm), red wine (0.5 ppm), wheat cereals (0.2-0.4 ppm), and broccoli (0.1 ppm). After consuming a meal including arbutin- and HQ-containing foods, volunteers showed significant increases in plasma and urinary levels of HQ and its conjugated metabolites (total HQ). Mean plasma concentrations of total HQ peaked at 5 times background levels at 2 h after the completion of the meal, and mean urinary excretion rates of total HQ peaked at 12 times background at 2-3 h after the meal. Immediately after smoking four cigarettes in approximately 30 min, mean plasma concentrations of total HQ were maximally 1.5 times background levels; mean urinary excretion rates of total HQ peaked at 2.5 times background at 1-3 h after smoking. These data indicate that considerable human exposure to HQ can result from plant-derived dietary sources and, to a lesser extent, from cigarette smoke.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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