International archives of occupational and environmental health

Occupational chronic exposure to organic solvents. XIV. Examinations concerning the evaluation of a limit value for 2-ethoxyethanol and 2-ethoxyethyl acetate and the genotoxic effects of these glycol ethers.

PMID 8482587


Two groups of workers occupationally exposed to glycol ethers in a varnish production plant or the ceramic industry were examined. For 19 persons the external and internal exposure was assessed on the Monday and Tuesday after an exposure-free weekend. In the varnish production area the concentrations of 2-ethoxyethanol (EE), 2-ethoxyethyl acetate (EEAc), and 2-butoxyethanol (BE) in air averaged 2.9, 0.5, and 0.5 ppm, respectively, on the Monday, and 2.1, 0.1, and 0.6 ppm, respectively, on the Tuesday. At the same workplaces the mean urinary 2-ethoxyacetic acid (EAA) and 2-butoxyacetic acid (BAA) concentrations were 53.2 and 0.2 mg/l on Monday preshift and 53.8 and 16.4 mg/l on Tuesday postshift. The results show that glycol ethers are very well absorbed through the skin. Therefore biological monitoring is indispensable. To study the kinetics of the toxic metabolite, 17 persons were examined for their excretion of EAA in urine during an exposure-free weekend. The median values of the calculated half-times were 57.4 and 63.4 h, respectively, which are longer than the values presented in literature until now. According to our calculations the limit value should not exceed 50 mg EAA per liter of urine, which is the current German biological tolerance value (BAT value) for EAA in urine. The maximum concentration value at the workplace (MAK value) for EE and EEAc in air should be revised. Finally, the subjects from the varnish production plant as well as a group of reference persons were studied for cytogenetic effects of glycol ethers (sister chromatid exchange, micronucleus test). Such effects could not be detected.