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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 February; 107(2): 133–140.
PMCID: PMC1566326
Research Article

Customer exposure to MTBE, TAME, C6 alkyl methyl ethers, and benzene during gasoline refueling.


We studied customer exposure during refueling by collecting air samples from customers' breathing zone. The measurements were carried out during 4 days in summer 1996 at two Finnish self-service gasoline stations with "stage I" vapor recovery systems. The 95-RON (research octane number) gasoline contained approximately 2.7% methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), approximately 8.5% tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME), approximately 3.2% C6 alkyl methyl ethers (C6 AMEs), and 0.75% benzene. The individual exposure concentrations showed a wide log-normal distribution, with low exposures being the most frequent. In over 90% of the samples, the concentration of MTBE was higher (range <0.02-51 mg/m3) than that of TAME. The MTBE values were well below the short-term (15 min) threshold limits set for occupational exposure (250-360 mg/m3). At station A, the geometric mean concentrations in individual samples were 3.9 mg/m3 MTBE and 2. 2 mg/m3 TAME. The corresponding values at station B were 2.4 and 1.7 mg/m3, respectively. The average refueling (sampling) time was 63 sec at station A and 74 sec at station B. No statistically significant difference was observed in customer exposures between the two service stations. The overall geometric means (n = 167) for an adjusted 1-min refueling time were 3.3 mg/m3 MTBE and 1.9 mg/m3 TAME. Each day an integrated breathing zone sample was also collected, corresponding to an arithmetic mean of 20-21 refuelings. The overall arithmetic mean concentrations in the integrated samples (n = 8) were 0.90 mg/m3 for benzene and 0.56 mg/m3 for C6 AMEs calculated as a group. Mean MTBE concentrations in ambient air (a stationary point in the middle of the pump island) were 0.16 mg/m3 for station A and 0.07 mg/m3 for station B. The mean ambient concentrations of TAME, C6 AMEs, and benzene were 0.031 mg/m3, approximately 0.005 mg/m3, and approximately 0.01 mg/m3, respectively, at both stations. The mean wind speed was 1.4 m/sec and mean air temperature was 21 degreesC. Of the gasoline refueled during the study, 75% was 95 grade and 25% was 98/99 grade, with an oxygenate (MTBE) content of 12.2%.

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