Blood concentrations of 11 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured up to four times over 2 years in a probability sample of more than 150 children from two poor, minority neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Blood levels of benzene, carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethene, and m-/p-xylene were comparable with those measured in selected adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), whereas concentrations of ethylbenzene, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and o-xylene were two or more times lower in the children. Blood levels of styrene were more than twice as high, and for about 10% of the children 1,4-dichlorobenzene levels were 10 times higher compared with NHANES III subjects. We observed strong statistical associations between numerous pairwise combinations of individual VOCs in blood (e.g., benzene and m-/p-xylene, m-/p-xylene and o-xylene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane and m-/p-xylene, and 1,1,1-trichloroethane and trichloroethene). Between-child variability was higher than within-child variability for 1,4-dichlorobenzene and tetrachloroethylene. Between- and within-child variability were approximately the same for ethylbenzene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and between-child was lower than within-child variability for the other seven compounds. Two-day, integrated personal air measurements explained almost 79% of the variance in blood levels for 1,4-dichlorobenzene and approximately 20% for tetrachloroethylene, toluene, m-/p-xylene, and o-xylene. Personal air measurements explained much less of the variance (between 0.5 and 8%) for trichloroethene, styrene, benzene, and ethylbenzene. We observed no significant statistical associations between total urinary cotinine (a biomarker for exposure to environmental tobacco smoke) and blood VOC concentrations. For siblings living in the same household, we found strong statistical associations between measured blood VOC concentrations.
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