Only a relatively small amount of trichloroethylene is excreted unchanged by the lungs after exposure because of the relatively high partition coefficient between blood and air and rapid metabolism (Monster, 1979). Most trichloroethylene is metabolised in the liver. Only about one third of the absorbed trichloroethylene is excreted in urine during the work period (Ikeda et al., 1972).

In a study of 5 male volunteers inhaling trichloroethylene at a concentration of 70 ppm for 4 hours on 5 consecutive days, trichloroethanol in blood and urine increased during the exposure days. The total recovery of the amount of absorbed trichloroethylene was 78%. Of this, 11% was excreted as unchanged trichloroethylene by the lungs, 43% as trichloroethanol in urine and 24% as trichloroacetic acid in urine. The quantity of trichloroethanol and trichloroacetic acid excreted in urine were related to body mass (Monster et al., 1979). The blood half-life of trichloroethylene has been calculated as 21.7 hours (Kostrzewski et al., 1993). The mean urinary biological halflife is estimated to be 41 hours, but may be as long as 73 hours in some cases (Ikeda, 1977).

In a human volunteer study of skin exposure and trichloroethylene absorption, trichloroethylene concentrations in alveolar air samples decayed rapidly once exposure ceased (Stewart and Dodd 1964). This study also concluded that trichloroethylene is not likely to be absorbed in sufficient quantities to cause systemic toxicity when contact is limited to the skin of the hands and forearms.

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