Assessing BTEX exposure among workers of the second largest natural gas reserve in the world: a biomonitoring approach


Urinary benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) can be used as a reliable biomarker of exposure to these pollutants. This cross-sectional study aimed to employ biomonitoring to assess BTEX exposure among South Pars Gas Field (SPGF) workers in Assaluyeh, Iran. Forty employees who were working on the site were recruited as the case group. Besides, 31 administrative employees were recruited as the control group. Pre-shift and post-shift spot urine samples were collected from the subjects in the case group, while the subjects in the control group provided mid-morning urine samples. Overall, 111 urine samples, including 80 samples from the case group and 31 samples from the controls, were collected. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) was used to determine the urinary levels of BTEX compounds. The median urinary levels of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m,p-xylene, and o-xylene in the post-shift samples of the exposed group were 1.24, 2.28, 0.5, 1.32, and 1.5 μg/l, respectively. Significant differences were observed in urinary BTEX levels among smokers and non-smokers in both studied groups (p < 0.05). Accordingly, the median urinary BTEX concentrations in smokers were 2 to 6.5 times higher than the corresponding values in non-smoker subjects. Smoking status was the only predictor of the urinary BTEX concentration. Our findings revealed that refinery workers are exposed to significant levels of BTEX compounds. Considering the health risks associated with BTEX exposure for refinery workers, implementation of suitable control strategies, such as using appropriate personal protective equipment and improving on-site ventilation systems, are recommended reducing their exposure to BTEX via the inhalation.

Authors: Mehdi Moridzadeh, Samaneh Dehghani, Ata Rafiee, Mohammad Sadegh Hassanvand, Mansooreh Dehghani, Mohammad Hoseini
; Full Source: Environmental science and pollution research international 2020 Aug 8. doi: 10.1007/s11356-020-10379-x.