Development of a fast-practical test for monitoring benzene

10 Oct 2019

TNO and SKC started a 2-year project developing a ‘point of care’ kit for faster and practical monitoring of benzene in urine. By measuring exposure of industrial workers within hours on site, without the involvement of a specialized lab, direct risk management measures can be taken, and harmful effects prevented quickly. To successfully bring the solution to industrial occupational hygiene practice, the development will be guided by end-user involvement.


Benzene is a component of products derived from coal and petroleum and is used in the manufacture of several chemicals. Benzene can cause cancer and more acute health effects such as drowsiness, unconsciousness and even death. Therefore, there is a strong focus on benzene in personal monitoring programs in the (petrochemical) industry. Biomonitoring, assessing metabolites of benzene in urine, is one of the established methods to assess worker exposure. This provides insight into all exposure routes including when personal protection equipment is used, dermal exposures and short-term high-level exposures. Current methods are based on laboratory analyses that generally have a turn-around time of weeks and can be logistically challenging in remote locations.

A more practical solution: point of care testing

A ‘point of care’ (POC) test for benzene metabolites in urine can be performed at the relevant location providing results within hours. These POC tests allow for immediate risk management changes, preventing unnecessary exposures while waiting for sample results. In addition, POC solutions provide the opportunity to collect more exposure measurements, creating insight in relevant exposure sources, locations and moments which can form the basis for better informed exposure management strategies and total worker health.

A few years back Shell Health, looking for a faster and more practical approach, funded a feasibility study. In this study TNO modified the current analytical method and increased the sensitivity of the assay to meet future decreasing exposure limits

Making a device available to occupational hygiene practice

Ultimately, occupational hygienists or nurses should be able to perform this new measurement method on-site, by themselves, thus eliminating the need for a specialized lab. Therefore, TNO now has joined hands with SKC to further refine the analytical method and develop a commercially available desktop user-friendly kit that can be used to easily perform the test and provide a direct read-out of the analytical results on site. To successfully implement this solution in occupational hygiene practice, end-users and authorities are being included in this development from the start. Via stakeholder interactions valuable input on device requirements are provided, guiding the development and the implementation in industrial occupational hygiene strategies. 

Do you want to provide input?

Are you a professional and interested in this development and want to provide input in future stakeholder interactions or be updated about the project’s progress? Please contact Rianda Gerritsen.


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