Hexane is metabolised by cytochrome P450-dependent monoxygenases and alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver to a number of metabolites including 2,5-hexanedione, 2-hexanol, 2,5-dimethylfuran, methyl n-butyl ketone (2-hexanone) and y-valerolactone. 2,5-Hexanedione (a y-diketone compound) is usually found in the greatest concentration (Perbellini et al., 1980; Governa et al., 1987) and is believed to be the substance responsible for neurotoxicity. The urinary concentration of 2,5-hexanedione has been shown to correlate with both hexane exposure (Perbellini et al., 1981a; Iwata et al., 1983; Mutti et al., 1984; Saito et al., 1991; Cardona et al., 1993; Periago et al., 1993) and the severity of electroneuromyographic changes in exposed workers (Governa et al., 1987), and is used as a biological indicator of exposure.

Other metabolites, 5-hydroxy-2-hexanone and 2,5-hexanediol are also metabolised to 2,5-hexanedione. 2-Hexanol is the main metabolite in animals, but is of only limited importance in humans (Perbellini et al., 1982; Fedtke and Bolt, 1987; Governa et al., 1987).

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