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Biomonitoring in exhaled air and effect monitoring of occupationally exposed styrene workers

Project number: F 2537 Institution: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) Status: Ongoing Project Planned end: 2024-03-31


Styrene is an aromatic hydrocarbon and an important basic substance in the chemical industry. Its use is versatile and widespread. Styrene is used in the production of plastics, as a solvent or as a reactant for unsaturated polyester resins. Styrene has a damaging effect on the human nervous system, both acutely and chronically. Depending on the work process and area, employees may be exposed to high levels of styrene – with the risk of limit values being exceeded. In these exposure scenarios, it is necessary to monitor and assess the actual internal exposure of employees.

To date, styrene degradation products in urine have been determined for such an assessment. However, these residues can also be influenced by metabolites of other hazardous substances. In contrast, styrene can be measured directly in exhaled air. Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) precursor project F 2400 was able to show that styrene in exhaled air can be measured just as precisely and reliably as its residues in urine. Sampling is simple and can be carried out independently by employees. Thus, the method is generally well suited for occupational health biomonitoring.

Within the framework of a field study, it is now to be investigated whether styrene in exhaled air can also be reliably and validly measured in operational practice. The study results should clarify the question of whether the procedure can be used as an alternative method to the previous urine test in the future.
At the same time, the effects of styrene on the nervous system will be investigated by testing various senses (e.g. sense of color, smell and balance). The focus here is on practical applicability of the tests under operational conditions.


Unit 4.2 "Health Surveillance, Biological Monitoring"

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