Detection of low level benzene exposure in supermarket wrappers by urinary muconic acid

E. S. Johnson, S. Halabi, G. Netto, G. Lucier, W. Bechtold, R. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Women who use the 'hot wire' and 'cool rod' machines to wrap meat in supermarkets are potentially exposed to low levels of benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons present in fumes emitted during the thermal decomposition of the plastic used to wrap meat. In order to evaluate whether the benzene metabolite trans, trans-muconic acid (MA) can be used to monitor these low levels, we collected urine samples from supermarket workers, and assayed the urine for MA. Geometric mean after-shift MA levels were highest for subjects who used the 'hot wire' machine, i.e. > 300 ng mg-1 creatinine (Cr). The corresponding levels for subjects who used the 'cool rod' machine were similar to those for subjects who did not use either type of machine, and were much lower. These results indicate that urinary muconic acid has some potential for use in monitoring benzene exposures of less than 1 part per million (ppm). The study detected very high background MA levels (exceeding 2000 ng mg-1 Cr) in some subjects, suggesting that individuals in the general population without occupational exposure to benzene may have urinary MA levels equivalent to exposure to up to 2 ppm benzene in ambient air. However, since non-benzene sources of the metabolite cannot be completely ruled out as partially responsible for these high levels, the public health significance of this finding is not known at the moment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-117
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Benzene
  • Biomarkers
  • Muconic acid
  • Plastic wrap
  • Supermarket

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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