Exposure to n-hexane, a component of many industrial solvent mixtures, is known to cause polyneuropathy in man. The concentration of metabolites in urine following exposure may be useful in biological monitoring. In a comparative study experimental animals (rat, rabbit and monkey) were subjected to single inhalatory treatments of 6, 12 and 24 h with 5,000 ppm of pure n-hexane. At the end of the treatments and at intervals thereafter, urine, and in rats also blood, were collected and analyzed for n-hexane and its metabolites. While the urine of rats contained 2-hexanol, 3-hexanol, methyl n-butyl ketone, 2,5-dimethylfuran, y-valerolactone and 2,5-hexanedione, rabbit and monkey urine were found to contain only 2-hexanedione, rabbit and monkey urine were to contain only 2-hexanol, 3-hexanol, methyl n-butyl ketone and 2,5-hexanedione. Within 72 h of the end of exposure, the principal metabolite was 2,5-dimethylfuran in rats and 2-hexanol in rabbits and monkeys. In all three species the excretion rates of methyl n-butyl ketone, 3-hexanol and 2-hexanol peaked several hours earlier than 2,5-hexanedione (and gamma-valerolactone and 2,5-dimethylfuran in rats). In all species 2,5-hexanedione was still detectable in urine 60 h following exposure. n-Hexane metabolites in rat blood were 2-hexanol, methyl-n-butyl ketone, 2,5-dimethylfuran and 2,4-hexanedione. The first two, as well as n-hexane itself, were found in maximum concentration immediately after termination of exposure, while 2,5-dimethylfuran and 2,5-hexanedione, with the longer exposure times, peaked some hours later. The data from urine collected at the end of exposure were compared with those obtained in a parallel study in humans occupationally exposed to a mixture of hexane isomers. Humans chronically exposed to 10-140 ppm n-hexane had 2,5-hexanedione concentrations in urine ranging from 0.4 to 21.7 mg/l, i.e., in the same proportion as rats exposed once for 6 or 12 h to 5,000 ppm.
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