The following list (disregarding surface contamination)
compares the advantages and disadvantages of the two categories.
ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING: Air Sampling and
Dermal Dosimeter Measurements
ADVANTAGES enables one to:
differentiate among multiple routes of exposure
differentiate exposure by specific tasks
identify location on the body of high exposure
evaluate protection from clothing
DISADVANTAGES usually require:
some uniformity of deposition density onto the skin
temporal stability of the compound on the collection media
more intervention with the user while working than biomonitoring
a controlled dose database to interpret results.
BIOLOGICAL MONITORING: Blood or Urine
ADVANTAGES enables one to:
integrate all routes of exposure
assess near-term historical exposure
measure absorbed (albeit metabolized)
sample with less intervention during work.
DISADVANTAGES usually require:
freedom from biologic interferences or cross reactivity
invasive sampling from blood among individuals
a more sensitive analytical method than environmental monitoring
a dose-metabolism database to interpret results.
It is important to realize that direct and indirect methods are mutually
antagonistic; their simultaneous use should be avoided.(5)
In the field, covering all or a large or important portion of the skin with
dosimeters will occlude the actual deposition and absorption of a dose
expected to be measured indirectly. If both dosimetry and biomonitoring are
used, their results are likely to be inversely correlated.(6)
Of their advantages and disadvantages discussed above, perhaps the most
important issue is having sufficient sensitivity for either method to
quantify dermal exposures at the level of interest. If only one method is
sensitive enough, the "choice" is simple. If both an environmental
(dermal) and biological method is available, can both detect doses at the
level of interest? And which would detect the lowest dose? A hypothetical
example demonstrates both the decision method and why environmental
methods tend to be more sensitive by factors of at least 3 to more than 30
Historical Uses and Interpretations of Environmental Monitoring:
Dermal monitoring using gauze pad dosimeters was originally described in
1962 by Durham and Wolfe.(3)
They used these dosimeters almost qualitatively to assess agricultural
pesticide applicator's exposure. It was nearly twenty years before such uses
became more quantitative in studies to assess harvester's exposure during
"reentry" to pesticide treated fields by Spear et al.(4-5)
A good summary of dermally absorbable residues was presented by Popendorf
Further studies of exposures to pesticide applicators have been summarized
While the early studies by Durham and Wolfe(3)
showed the dermal route to be important, it wasn't until the methods became
more quantitative that the over-whelming ratio became apparent.(4-5)
A consistent pattern in virtually all such studies is that the dermal dose
exceeds the respiratory dose by ratios between 50 and 1000 to 1. A dermal to
airborne dose ratio of 100:1 is a good first approximation for the many open
uses of low volatility compounds studied thus far.
The reason such monitoring began with pesticides relates to their low vapor pressures and high dermal absorption rates.
Vapor pressure is the intrinsic physical determinant of the rate of
evaporation of a chemical; it is equivalent to the maximum concentration of
a chemical as a vapor at a given temperature.(20)
In the workplace, vapors are normally diluted to a fraction of this
concentration, at least 100 fold and sometimes by as much as 105.
As long as the dilution is equal to or greater than the ratio between a
chemical's vapor pressure and its permissible exposure limit (PEL or similar
TLV), the worker will not be over-exposed.
This ratio has been called the Vapor Hazard Ratio by Popendorf (20),
1. The Vapor Hazard Ratio for many pesticides in Table
1 is 10 or less; only a few non-pesticidal compounds have a VHR in the
It doesn't take much fresh air to dilute the concentrated vapors at their
source 10 or even a 100 fold to below their allowable exposure limits; thus,
over-exposures to pesticide vapors are rare (except for fumigants, as their
name implies, and in poorly ventilated greenhouses).
It is also difficult to exceed a pesticide's exposure limit when it is
sprayed as an aerosol. During agricultural field applications:
A pesticide is typically diluted with water to a concentration of
about 0.1 to 0.2 percent active ingredient.
Thus, to exceed an 8-TWA exposure limit of 0.1 mg/m³ with a 0.2%
solution requires a total aqueous aerosol concentration of 50 mg/m³.
While that may occur briefly on rare occasion to any applicator, it is
very unlikely to be anywhere near continuous in any workplace.
Such levels as a spray would approximate a shower; someone exposed to
50 mg/m³ as a solid power or dust would experience rapid clogging of
their nose and Irritation of their throat before experiencing an
overdose of the active ingredient.
Heating a pesticide (or any organic compound) without combustion will
Increase its volatility(20);
however, combustion has been shown to breakdown a pesticide's structure.(21)
While a great deal of early research and a lingering emphasis in worker
pesticide education has been directed toward the respiratory route of
exposure, respiratory doses as later measured were not sufficient to explain
the frequency of acute health effects observed following the introduction of
organophosphate insecticides around 1950.
Commercial insecticides are selected for their ability to be absorbed by
insects. As it turns out, these chemicals are also easily absorbed through
Absorption rates of 10% to 30% were reported for some early and common
Various mathematical models of skin absorption have been developed
based on the physical nature and interaction of skin and individual
Most of these models use a commonly reported ratio between a compound's
solubility in octanol versus water.
Generalizing based on the above relationships, if a compound's dermal
absorption is 10% or more, one can be quite sure that dermal doses will
predominate in most settings.
For compounds with absorption of 1 to 10%, the balance will depend
upon volatility. The airborne route is more likely to be predominant for
compound's with less than 1% absorption.
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