Concentration-dependent TCDD elimination kinetics in humans: Toxicokinetic modeling for moderately to highly exposed adults from Seveso, Italy, and Vienna, Austria, and impact on dose estimates for the NIOSH cohort

Lesa L. Aylward, Robert C. Brunet, Gaétan Carrier, Sean M. Hays, Colleen A. Cushing, Larry L. Needham, Donald G. Patterson, Pier Mario Gerthoux, Paolo Brambilla, Paolo Mocarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Serial measurements of serum lipid 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) concentrations in 36 adults from Seveso, Italy, and three patients from Vienna, Austria, with initial serum lipid TCDD concentrations ranging from 130 to 144,000 ppt, were modeled using a modified version of a previously published toxicokinetic model for the distribution and elimination of dioxins. The original model structure accounted for a concentration-dependent increase in overall elimination rate for TCDD due to nonlinear distribution of TCDD to the liver (secondary to induction of the binding protein CYP1A2), from which elimination takes place via a first-order process. The original model structure was modified to include elimination due to lipid partitioning of TCDD from circulation into the large intestine, based on published human data. We optimized the fit of the modified model to the data by varying the hepatic elimination rate parameter for each of the 39 people. The model fits indicate that there is significant interindividual variability of TCDD elimination efficiency in humans and also demonstrate faster elimination in men compared to women, and in younger vs. older persons. The data and model results indicate that, for males, the mean apparent half-life for TCDD (as reflected in changes in predicted serum lipid TCDD level) ranges from less than 3 years at serum lipid levels above 10,000 ppt to over 10 years at serum lipid levels below 50 ppt. Application of the model to serum sampling data from the cohort of US herbicide-manufacturing workers assembled by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicates that previous estimates of peak serum lipid TCDD concentrations in dioxin-exposed manufacturing workers, based on first-order back-extrapolations with half-lives of 7-9 years, may have underestimated the maximum concentrations in these workers and other occupational cohorts by several-fold to an order of magnitude or more. Such dose estimates, based on a single sampling point decades after last exposure, are highly variable and dependent on a variety of assumptions and factors that cannot be fully determined, including interindividual variations in elimination efficiency. Dose estimates for these cohorts should be re-evaluated in light of the demonstration of concentration-dependent elimination kinetics for TCDD, and the large degree of uncertainty in back-calculated dose estimates should be explicitly incorporated in quantitative estimates of TCDD's carcinogenic potency based on such data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-65
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


  • Elimination kinetics
  • Human
  • TCDD
  • Toxicokinetic modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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