Hemoglobin and albumin adducts of the carcinogen styrene-7,8-oxide (SO) were measured in 48 workers exposed to both styrene and SO in a boat manufacturing plant. Personal exposures to both substances were measured repeatedly over the course of 1 year (styrene:0.9-235 mg/m3 with a mean of 64.3 mg/m3 for 48 subjects; S0: 13.4-525 mu g/m3 with a mean of 159 mu g/m3 for 20 subjects). Cysteine and carboxylic acid adducts of SO with hemoglobin and albumin were assayed on one or more occasions for each subject. The proteins were subjected to base hydrolysis to release styrene glycol, representing carboxylic acid-bound SO, and were then treated with Raney nickel to release 1-phenylethanol and 2-phenylethanol, representing cysteine-bound SO. These three analytes were extracted, derivatized, and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. No evidence was found of any exposure-related increase in hemoglobin adducts. In contrast, albumin adducts were found to increase with exposures to either styrene or SO, the latter apparently being more important. This suggests that exposure to low levels of SO in the air may be important among workers in the reinforced plastics industry. Significant levels of SO adducts of albumin and hemoglobin were also detected in proteins obtained from persons without occupational exposure to styrene or to SO. This finding opens the possibility that SO is either a dietary or an environmental contaminant or is produced endogenously.

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