International archives of occupational and environmental health

Occupational exposure to toluene and its possible causative role in renal damage development in shoe workers.

PMID 16001213


An important, although, unprecise number of shoe workers in Leon, Mexico, are in continuous contact with toluene-based glues. The induction of renal glomerular and/or tubular lesions as a result of toluene exposure is still being discussed controversially. Our objective was to evaluate the extent of occupational exposure, assessing urinary o-Cresol excretion as a measure for toluene exposure in a population at risk as compared to a control population. Urinary albumin excretion (UAE) and N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase (NAG) enzymatic activity were tested to assess renal dysfunction. A cross-sectional study was performed comparing 50 toluene-exposed shoe workers and 25 control subjects. Urinary o-cresol was assessed on first and last day of labor week from exposed subjects. A single urine sample was obtained from control subjects. Urinary Albumin excretion (UAE) and (NAG) activity were examined in 12 h urine samples in all subjects. Urine and serum creatinine were measured to asses renal function. At the end of the labor week, urinary o-cresol levels were higher in samples obtained from exposed subjects. Albumin excretion was similar in the exposed and control groups. NAG activity was greater in the exposed group compared to control group (median 3.5 U/g creatinine vs 1.9 U/g creatinine, z=2.6, P=0.009). An inverse relationship was found between schooling years and the NAG enzymatic activity for the two studied groups (r= -0.27, P=0.02), Our findings support the hypothesis that toluene may be a factor associated with the presence of renal damage in exposed shoe workers. As NAG activity is increased, we believe the lesion initiates in the renal tubular cells.