An assessment of dermal exposure to heavy fuel oil (HFO) in occupational settings

Yvette Christopher, Martie Van Tongeren*, Jan Urbanus, John W. Cherrie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Heavy fuel oil (HFO) components are a group of heavy petroleum streams produced in oil refineries from crude oil. Due to its physicochemical properties, the dermal route is an important route of exposure. However, no information on dermal exposure levels for HFO has previously been published. A method for measuring dermal HFO levels was developed using wipe sampling and measuring phenanthrene and naphthalene as markers of HFO exposure. Measurement surveys were carried out in four different types of facilities: oil refineries, distribution terminals, energy providers, and an engine building and repair company. Dermal wipe samples were collected from different anatomical regions: neck, hands, and forearms. The frequency of tasks with potential for dermal HFO exposure was generally low at these facilities, with the exception of the distribution terminals and the engine building and repair site. The geometric mean (GM) dermal load on the hands was ∼0.1 μg cm -2 for both left and right hand and 0.013 and 0.019 μg cm -2 for the left and right forearm, respectively. With one exception, all results from the neck samples were below the limit of detection. The highest dermal loads for the hands and forearms were found in the engine building and repair facility (hands: GM = 1.6 μg cm -2; forearms: GM = 0.41 μg cm -2). The tasks with the highest dermal loads were the maintenance (hands: GM = 1.7 μg cm -2) and cleaning tasks (hands: GM = 0.24 μg cm -2). Actual dermal loads were low when compared with workplace dermal exposure measurements reported by other researchers for similar scenarios with other substances. This may be explained by high compliance of gloves use by workers during HFO handling tasks and likely avoidance of contact with HFO due to its high viscosity and the requirement to keep HFO at elevated temperatures during storage, transport, and use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)319-328
    Number of pages10
    JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


    • dermal exposure
    • heavy fuel oil
    • HFO
    • occupational exposure
    • PAH
    • petroleum

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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