Saf Health Work.  2015 Sep;6(3):174-183. 10.1016/

Estimating Benzene Exposure Level over Time and by Industry Type through a Review of Literature on Korea

  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Korea National Open University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Occupational Health, Catholic University of Daegu, Daegu, Korea.
  • 3Department of Biochemistry and Health Science, Changwon National University, Changwon, Korea.
  • 4Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Catholic Kwandong University, International St. Mary's Hospital, Incheon, Korea.
  • 5Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 6Graduate School of Public Health, Korea University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 7Department of Occupational Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, School of Medicine, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
  • 8Department of Preventive and Occupational Medicine, Pusan National University School of Medicine, Pusan, Korea.
  • 9Department of Work Environment, Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute, Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, Ulsan, Korea.


The major purpose of this study is to construct a retrospective exposure assessment for benzene through a review of literature on Korea. Airborne benzene measurements reported in 34 articles were reviewed. A total of 15,729 individual measurements were compiled. Weighted arithmetic means [AM(w)] and their variance calculated across studies were summarized according to 5-year period intervals (prior to the 1970s through the 2010s) and industry type. Industries were classified according to Korea Standard Industrial Classification (KSIC) using information provided in the literature. We estimated quantitative retrospective exposure to benzene for each cell in the matrix through a combination of time and KSIC. Analysis of the AM(w) indicated reductions in exposure levels over time, regardless of industry, with mean levels prior to the 1980e1984 period of 50.4 ppm (n = 2,289), which dropped to 2.8 ppm (n = 305) in the 1990e1994 period, and to 0.1 ppm (n = 294) in the 1995e1999 period. There has been no improvement since the 2000s, when the AM(w) of 4.3 ppm (n = 6,211) for the 2005e2009 period and 4.5 ppm (n = 3,358) for the 2010e2013 period were estimated. A comparison by industry found no consistent patterns in the measurement results. Our estimated benzene measurements can be used to determine not only the possibility of retrospective exposure to benzene, but also to estimate the level of quantitative or semiquantitative retrospective exposure to benzene.


benzene; exposure estimation; retrospective exposure assessment
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