In 2010 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the occupational exposure of a firefighter as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). Fire fighters are exposed to a number of carcinogenic chemicals that are released during a fire and benzene is a central substance to monitor in this aspect. The benzene metabolite s-phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA) is a specific urinary biomarker for benzene and can be used for monitoring personal exposure at low air concentrations of benzene.
In an ongoing project (Cancer risk among firefighters) at the National Institute of Occupational health in Norway, SPMA is one of several biomarkers examined in urine donated from firefighters. Urine was collected from 16 firefighters after a fire drill (prior to, immediately after and approximately six hours after firefighting) and the samples were analysed by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. SPMA was detected in all urine samples donated from the firefighters six hours after the fire drill. To our knowledge, this is the first study detecting SPMA in urine donated from firefighters.