Benzene Inhalation by Parts Washers: New Estimates Based on Measures of Occupational Exposure to Solvent Coaromatics
Questions persist regarding assessment of workers’ exposures to products containing low levels of benzene, such as mineral spirit solvent (MSS). This study summarizes previously unpublished data for parts-washing activities, and evaluates potential daily and lifetime cumulative benzene exposures incurred by workers who used historical and current formulations of a recycled mineral spirits solvent in manual parts washers. Measured benzene concentrations in historical samples from parts-washing operations were frequently below analytical detection limits. To better assess benzene exposure among these workers, air-to-solvent concentration ratios measured for toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (TEX) were used to predict those for benzene based on a statistical model, conditional on physical-chemical theory supported by new thermodynamic calculations of TEX and benzene activity coefficients in a modeled MSS-type solvent. Using probabilistic methods, the distributions of benzene concentrations were then combined with distributions of other exposure parameters to estimate eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) exposure concentration distributions and corresponding daily respiratory dose distributions for workers using these solvents in parts washers. The estimated 50th (95th) percentile of the daily respiratory dose and corresponding eight-hour TWA air concentration for workers performing parts washing are 0.079 (0.77) mg and 0.0030 (0.028) parts per million by volume (ppm) for historical solvent, and 0.020 (0.20) mg and 0.00078 (0.0075) ppm for current solvent, respectively. Both 95th percentile eight-hour TWA respiratory exposure estimates for solvent formulations are less than 10% of the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limit of 1.0 ppm for benzene.
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