The use of S-phenylmercapturic acid as a biomarker in molecular epidemiology studies of benzene

Peter B. Farmer, Balvinder Kaur, Jonathan Roach, Len Levy, Dario Consonni, Pietro A. Bertazzi, Angela Pesatori, Silvia Fustinoni, Marina Buratti, Matteo Bonzini, Antonio Colombi, Todor Popov, Domenico Cavallo, Arianna Desideri, Federico Valerio, Mauro Pala, Claudia Bolognesi, Franco Merlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


S-Phenylmercapturic acid (S-PMA), is a urinary metabolite of benzene, thought to be derived from the condensation product of benzene oxide with glutathione. S-PMA may be determined by GC, HPLC (UV or fluorescence detection), GC-MS, LC-MS/MS or immunoassays. The limit of sensitivities of most of these techniques is 1 μg/l urine or below. It has been suggested that S-PMA may have value as a biomarker for low level human exposure to benzene, in view of the facts that urinary excretion of S-PMA has been found to be related to airborne benzene in occupationally exposed workers, and that only low background levels of S-PMA have been found in control subjects. We have evaluated the use of S-PMA as a biomarker, using a commercially available analytical service, in a multicentre European study of populations exposed to varying levels of benzene, in Italy (Milan, Genoa) and in Bulgaria (Sofia). These were filling station attendants, urban policemen, bus drivers, petrochemical workers and referents (a total of 623 subjects). S-PMA was measured at the end of the work shift by an immunoassay procedure. Urinary benzene (in Milan only) and the benzene metabolite trans,trans-muconic acid (t,t-MA) were measured before and after the work shift. Air-borne benzene was measured as a monitor of exposure. Urinary benzene was the most discriminatory biomarker and showed a relationship with airborne benzene at all levels of exposure studied (including groups exposed to 3 (0.55 ppm) benzene). All three biomarkers were positively correlated with smoking as measured by urinary cotinine).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Publication statusPublished - May 30 2005


  • Benzene
  • Biomarker
  • Environmental exposure
  • S-phenylmercapturic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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