• Article

Elimination kinetics of volatile organics in humans using breath measurements

During the past decade significant strides have been made toward understanding the sources and factors which lead to volatile organic chemical (VOC) exposure in the general population. Less is known, however, about the impact of low-level environmental exposure on human health. Investigations are underway in a number of laboratories in an effort to determine the uptake, distribution, metabolism, and elimination kinetics for VOCs in humans. We examined the elimination kinetics for the third phase for ten VOCs--1,1,-trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene, toluene, m,p-xylenes, o-xylene, ethylbenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, and limonene--in human subjects. Subjects were exposed to a variety of common consumer products and breath samples were collected post-exposure while the subjects spent up to 10 hr in a clean air environment. VOCs from breath samples were collected into canisters or onto Tenax GC cartridges and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Exponential modeling of the decay data was performed to obtain kinetic parameters. The half-lives for trichloroethylene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane were approximately 5 to 8 hr for the four subjects. In general, the magnitude and range of variability was larger for toluene, limonene, and p-dichlorobenzene than for the other VOCs; the elimination rate spanning a few hours to a day or two. Thus, VOCs exhibit relatively short residence times in the body relative to other halo-carbons, such as polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins


Pellizzari, E., Wallace, LA., & Gordon, SM. (1992). Elimination kinetics of volatile organics in humans using breath measurements. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology, 2(3), 341-355.