Urinary levoglucosan as a biomarker of wood smoke exposure: Observations in a mouse model and in children

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Background: Biomass smoke is an important source of particulate matter (PM), and much remains to be discovered with respect to the human health effects associated with this specific PM source. Exposure to biomass smoke can occur in one of two main categories: short-term exposures consist of periodic, seasonal exposures typified by communities near forest fires or intentional agricultural burning, and long-term exposures are chronic and typified by the use of biomass materials for cooking or heating. Levoglucosan (LG), a sugar anhydride released by combustion of cellulosecontaining materials, is an attractive candidate as a biomarker of wood smoke exposure. Objectives: In the present study, Balb/c mice and children were assessed for LG in urine to determine its feasibility as a biomarker. Methods: We performed urinary detection of LG by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry after intranasal instillations of LG or concentrated PM (mice) or biomass exposure (mice or humans). Results: After instillation, we recovered most of the LG within the first 4 hr. Experiments using glucose instillation proved the specificity of our system, and instillation of concentrated PM from wood smoke, ambient air, and diesel exhaust supported a connection between wood smoke and LG. In addition, LG was detected in the urine of mice exposed to wood smoke. Finally, a pilot human study proved our ability to detect LG in urine of children. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that LG in the lungs is detectable in the urine of both mice and humans and that it is a good candidate as a biomarker of exposure to biomass smoke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-79
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Biomass
  • Children
  • Instillation
  • Levoglucosan
  • Mouse
  • Urine
  • Wood smoke


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