Journal of occupational health

Exposure to MTBE, TAME and aromatic hydrocarbons during gasoline pump maintenance, repair and inspection.

PMID 17053301


The exposure of gasoline pump repairers and inspectors to gasoline was studied at service stations and repair shops in Finland in April-June 2004. The average air temperature ranged from 7 degrees C to 16 degrees C and wind speed from 2.5 to 7 m/s. The gasoline blends contained mixtures of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME), the total content of oxygenates being 11-12%. The content of benzene was <1%. Breathing zone air was collected during the work task using passive monitors. The mean sampling period was 4.5 h. The mean TWA-8 h concentrations for MTBE, TAME, hexane, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene were 4.5, 1.3, 0.55, 0.23, 2.2, 0.26 and 1.1 mg/m3, respectively. None of the individual benzene concentrations exceeded the binding limit value for benzene (3.25 mg/m3). The sum concentration of MTBE and TAME in urine was between 8.9 and 530 nmol/l in individual post-shift samples. The individual sum concentrations of the metabolites tert-butyl alcohol and tert-amyl alcohol collected the following morning after the exposure ranged from 81 to 916 nmol/l. All individual results were below corresponding biological action levels. Exposure to aromatic hydrocarbons was estimated from post-shift urine samples, with benzene showing the highest concentration (range 4.4 and 35 nmol/l in non-smokers). The exposure levels were similar to those measured in previous studies during unloading of tanker lorries and railway wagons. The results indicated a slightly higher exposure for inspectors, who calibrated fuel pump gauges at the service stations, than for pump repairers. No significant skin exposure occurred during the study.