Biomonitoring for Occupational Exposure to Diisocyanates: A Systematic Review

Bernice Scholten, Laura Kenny, Radu Corneliu Duca, Anjoeka Pronk, Tiina Santonen, Karen S. Galea, Miranda Loh, Katriina Huumonen, Anne Sleeuwenhoek, Matteo Creta, Lode Godderis, Kate Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Diisocyanates are a group of chemicals that are widely used in occupational settings. They are known to induce various health effects, including skin-and respiratory tract sensitization resulting in allergic dermatitis and asthma. Exposure to diisocyanates has been studied in the past decades by using different types of biomonitoring markers and matrices. The aim of this review as part of the HBM4EU project was to assess: (i) which biomarkers and matrices have been used for biomonitoring diisocyanates and what are their strengths and limitations; (ii) what are (current) biomonitoring levels of the major diisocyanates (and metabolites) in workers; and (iii) to characterize potential research gaps. For this purpose we conducted a systematic literature search for the time period 2000-end 2018, thereby focussing on three types of diisocyanates which account for the vast majority of the total isocyanate market volume: hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), and 4,4′-methylenediphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). A total of 28 publications were identified which fulfilled the review inclusion criteria. The majority of these studies (93%) investigated the corresponding diamines in either urine or plasma, but adducts have also been investigated by several research groups. Studies on HDI were mostly in the motor vehicle repair industry [with urinary hexamethylene diamine result ranging from 0.03 to 146.5 μmol mol-1 creatinine]. For TDI, there is mostly data on foam production [results for urinary toluene diamine ranging from ~0.01 to 97 μmol mol-1 creatinine] whereas the available MDI data are mainly from the polyurethane industry (results for methylenediphenyl diamine range from 0.01 to 32.7 μmol mol-1 creatinine). About half of the studies published were prior to 2010 hence might not reflect current workplace exposure. There is large variability within and between studies and across sectors which could be potentially explained by several factors including worker or workplace variability, short half-lives of biomarkers, and differences in sampling strategies and analytical techniques. We identified several research gaps which could further be taken into account when studying diisocyanates biomonitoring levels: (i) the development of specific biomarkers is promising (e.g. to study oligomers of HDI which have been largely neglected to date) but needs more research before they can be widely applied, (ii) since analytical methods differ between studies a more uniform approach would make comparisons between studies easier, and (iii) dermal absorption seems a possible exposure route and needs to be further investigated. The use of MDI, TDI, and HDI has been recently proposed to be restricted in the European Union unless specific conditions for workers' training and risk management measures apply. This review has highlighted the need for a harmonized approach to establishing a baseline against which the success of the restriction can be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-585
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Biomarker
  • Biomonitoring
  • Diisocyanates
  • Review
  • Worker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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