Exposure to bitumen fumes and genotoxic effects on asphalt workers

Toxic fumes make asphalt worker sick

Bitumen fumes consist essentially of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their derivatives, some of which are known to be carcinogenic or cocarcinogenic in humans. The aim of this study was to investigate exposure to asphalt fumes among Turkish asphalt workers and determine whether any effects could be detected with genotoxic tests.  

The study included 26 asphalt workers and 24 control subjects. Sister chromatid exchange (SCE) and micronucleus (MN) were determined in peripheral lymphocytes. Urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP) excretion was used as a biomarker of occupational exposure to PAHs.  

The asphalt workers had a significant increase in SCEs and MN (for each, p < 0.001). A positive correlation existed between the duration of exposure and rates of SCE or MN frequencies (r = 0.49, p < 0.05; r = 0.53, p < 0.05, respectively). The concentration of 1-OHP in urine was higher for the asphalt workers than for the controls (p < 0.001). However, we found that there was no statistically significant correlation between the urinary 1-OHP concentration and SCEs or MN frequencies (r = 0.25, p > 0.5; r = 0.17, p > 0.5, respectively).  

This study shows that Turkish asphalt workers have an increased exposure to PAHs from bitumen fumes, and genotoxic effects could be detected by SCEs and MN tests. 

Reference: Karaman A, Pirim I., Exposure to bitumen fumes and genotoxic effects on Turkish asphalt workers, Department of Medical Genetics, State Hospital, Erzurum, Turkey, Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2009 Apr;47(4):321-6.

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