The biological exposure index (BEI) set by the ACGIH has recently been changed from 40 mg mono-N-methylformamide (NMF)/l in urine to 15 mg/l (ACGIH, 2000). Also, a new BEI for urinary N-acetyl-S-(N-methylcarbamoyl)cysteine (AMCC) of 40 mg/l is now recommended, although this test is not routinely available (Käfferlein and Angerer, 1999). Methods for simultaneous analysis of NMF and AMCC are currently being developed (Käfferlein and Angerer, 1999).

NMF in urine represents an index of daily exposure and AMCC represents an index of the average exposure over the preceding working days. AMCC is considered a better biological exposure index because it has a longer half-life and its formation is more closely related to DMF toxicity (Käfferlein et al., 2000).

Dimethylformamide is a widely used synthetic organic solvent, first synthesised in 1893 (Kennedy, 1986). It is used mainly in the manufacture of films, fibres, coatings, adhesives and polyurethane lacquers. It is particularly useful as a solvent for polar polymers such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyacrylonitrile which have strong intermolecular forces (Kennedy, 1986). Most cases of occupational exposure involve inhalation or dermal absorption. Gastric irritation and liver toxicity may occur from exposure, but the risk of hepatotoxicity is low (Gescher, 1993).

Dimethylformamide is absorbed by inhalation, ingestion, injection and dermal exposure. In a study of volunteers exposed to 20 ppm for eight hours the mean quantity of dimethylformamide absorbed via the lungs was 49.3 |J.mol/kg (Mraz et al., 1989). Pulmonary retention of DMF in volunteers was 90% (Mraz and Nohova, 1992b).

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