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Traditionally, industrial hygienists have sought to prevent excessive exposure to chemicals in industry by setting standards for concentrations of chemicals in ambient air. Standards for chemicals in air applied by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists include: the maximum allowable concentration (MAC), the threshold limit value (TLV), and the emergency exposure limit (EEL). However, the monitoring of air concentrations only considers exposure by inhalation and is not indicative of the actual uptake or total body burden of chemicals by exposed workers. During the past 20 years numerous procedures have been developed for the analysis of industrial chemicals in biological specimens collected from workers. Such biological monitoring takes into consideration absorption of chemicals by all routes of absorption and differences in individual exposures. The goal of biological monitoring is to detect excessive exposure in workers before the occurrence of detectable adverse health effects.
Associate professor, Division of Forensic and Environmental Pathology, Department of Pathology, St. Louis, MO
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