Blood samples of miners heavily exposed to coal dust were examined for changes in glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity. Decreased GST activity was found in red blood cells of subjects with early stages of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (International Labour Office classification 0/1-1/2) when compared with control miners. At further progression of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (> or = 2/1), the activity of GST was not different from controls. In the same group with moderate coal workers' pneumoconiosis a decrease in GSH in red blood cells occurred. Decreases in GST activity in early stages of coal workers' pneumoconiosis, as well as the decreases in glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity and in GSH concentrations reported earlier, may originate from damage caused by reactive oxygen species. These changes might imply an impairment of the detoxification capacity for electrophilic and oxidative compounds during this stage of the disease.
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