Bio-test monitors benzene emissions

Chemical exposure has been a growing concern for over forty years. Although emission controls have improved considerably, demands for higher quality industrial and municipal life create a need for more comprehensive methods of chemical exposure measurement. Until now regulatory agencies have had to be satisfied with measuring concentrations of polluting agents in the environment around the exposed worker or citizen. However, as our understanding of the complex effects of exposure advances, so the demands for evaluating an individual's actual exposure increase.

Chemical measurement
Biological monitoring, or biomonitoring, is the measurement of a chemical or its breakdown product in an exposed individual. Measurements may be made on samples of breath, urine or blood and reflect the total uptake of the chemical by inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. Frustratingly, biomonitoring methods have been slow, expensive and depended upon specialised scientific laboratories and, consequently, were of limited accessibility.

Benzene, for example, is an important industrial chemical. High volumes, produced in the petrol refining process and used by the chemical industry to manufacture plastics, polystyrene and rubber, are released in to the atmosphere. Further, emissions from automotive exhausts, cigarette smoke and landfill waste sites contribute to the environmental load and chronic benzene exposure may lead to cancers such as leukaemia.

Analytical performance
A novel test for monitoring benzene exposure is now available through AB Biomonitoring. The test uses a unique antibody to quantify a specific urinary metabolite of benzene (S-phenylmercapturic acid). The test is reliable, robust and fully validated in terms of analytical performance. Because of the speed and efficiency of the test, many customers not only monitor workers after an accidental exposure but have implemented routine screening programmes to protect the health of their employees.

Moreover, the technology can be readily adapted for population screening where there is concern about the impact of pollution on human health and quality of life. Road traffic is one of the greatest threats to the environment, especially in urban areas.

Environmental pollution is an immediate and urgent problem and environmental consideration should possess a key role in selection and control processes. This technology enables the wider application of biomonitoring as both a monitoring and survey tool of environmental and industrial exposures. Affordable exposure information will prevent disease, limit environmental damage and facilitate the goals of sustainable development.


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