The exposure of Finnish tank lorry drivers to methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME) during loading of gasoline was studied using biological and breathing-zone sampling. During the field measurements in October 1994 and August 1995 the gasolines (95, 98, 99 RON) contained MTBE to 5.2-11.8% and TAME to 0-6%.
The geometric mean (GM) breathing-zone concentration of MTBE was 4.3 mg/m3 (n = 15) in October and 6.4 mg/m3 (n = 20) in August. The GM concentration of TAME, measured only in August, was 0.98 mg/m3. The mean loading/sampling times were 37 and 35 min, the mean wind speeds were 0.8 and 0.6 m/s, and the mean air temperatures were -4.9 degrees and + 14.1 degrees C, respectively. Blood samples collected on average at 20 min after gasoline loading/exposure showed an MTBE concentration of 143 nmol/l (GM, n = 14) in October and 213 nmol/l (GM, n = 20) in August. Pearson's coefficient of correlation (r) between the MTBE breathing-zone concentrations and MTBE in blood was 0.86 (P = 0.0001) in October and 0.81 (P = 0.00001) in August. No correlation was found between MTBE in air and the metabolite tert-butanol (TBA) in blood. MTBE, but not TBA, in urine samples collected on average at 2.5 h after exposure showed a correlation with MTBE in air. The concentrations of TAME and its metabolite tert-amyl alcohol were below the quantitation limits (