Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1997;23(6):414-420    pdf


Urinary naphthols as an indicator of exposure to naphthalene

by Bieniek G

Objectives The relationship between exposure to naphthalene and urinary excretion of naphthols was examined.

Methods Concentrations of naphthalene and naphthols in breathing-zone air during a workshift and 1-naphthol and 2-naphthol in urine collected after the workshift were determined for 102 male workers. Gas chromatography with a flame ionization detector (GC-FID) was used to determine the air concentration. Urine naphthols were extracted after acid hydrolysis by solid-phase extraction and separated by the GC-FID method. Naphthalene homologues in air and their metabolites in urine samples were identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Results 1-Naphthol, 2-naphthol and 1,4-naphthoquinone were identified in the urine samples. The time-weighted average concentrations of naphthalene and naphthols in the breathing-zone air showed that the exposure level of the workers was rather low. The geometric mean values were as follows: 0.77 and 0.87 mg/m3 for naphthalene, 0.016 and 0.034 mg/m3 for 1-naphthol, 0.012 and 0.067 mg/m3 for 2-naphthol during tar distillation and naphthalene oil distillation, respectively. The corresponding urinary concentrations of 1- and 2-naphthols were 693.1 and 264.4 µmol/mol and 264.4 and 297.7 µmol/mol creatinine, respectively. The correlation coefficients between the naphthol concentrations in urine and the breathing-zone air concentrations of naphthalene were statistically significant, varying in the range of 0.64–0.75 for 1-naphthol and 0.70–0.82 for 2-naphthol. There was linear dependence (r = 0.76) between the summary concentration of naphthols in urine and the naphthalene concentration in air.

Conclusion Workers in tar distillation and naphthalene distillation are exposed to rather low concentrations of naphthalene and methylated naphthalenes and naphthols. Naphthols and 1,4-naphthoquinone identified in the urine appear to be the products of the hydroxylation of naphthalene present in the breathing-zone air. These findings suggest that the summary concentration of naphthols in urine can be used as a biomarker for naphthalene exposure.