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Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1997 Oct;58(10):704-12.

Acetone odor and irritation thresholds obtained from acetone-exposed factory workers and from control (occupationally unexposed) subjects.

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Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Sensitivity of olfaction (smell) and chemesthesis (irritation) was evaluated for 2-propanone (acetone) and 1-butanol in acetone-exposed workers (AEW; N = 32) during a workday and unexposed subjects (microES; N = 32). Irritation sensitivity was assessed using a method that relies on the ability of individuals to localize irritants on the body. When a volatile compound is inhaled into one nostril and air into the other, the stimulated side can be determined (lateralized) only after the concentration reaches a level that stimulates the trigeminal nerve (irritation); compounds stimulating olfaction alone cannot be lateralized. Intranasal lateralization thresholds offer an objective measure of sensory irritation elicited by volatile compounds. Test results indicated that neither olfactory nor lateralization thresholds for butanol differed between AEW and microES. Olfactory thresholds to acetone in AEW (855 ppm) were elevated relative to those of microES (41 ppm), as were lateralization thresholds (36,669 ppm and 15,758 ppm, respectively). Within AEW, level of occupational exposure was not correlated with thresholds. Other measures revealed that microES used more irritation descriptors than did AEW on trials where the acetone concentration was below the lateralization threshold. This is noteworthy because microES received lower concentrations of acetone to evaluate than did AEW. These results suggest that exposures to acetone induce changes in acetone sensitivity that are specific to acetone. The acetone concentrations eliciting sensory irritation using the lateralization technique were all well above current occupational exposure standards. The current study indicates that acetone is a weak sensory irritant and that sensory adaptation is an important factor affecting its overall irritancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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