Objectives The study investigated if wood usage by street food caterers and household residents from informal settlements in Cape Town resulted in the absorption of Cr, Cu and As due to release of these metals from wood stocks treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA).
Methods Participants (n = 78) selected included an equal number of food caterers and household residents from two informal settlement, one each located in an urban and a peri-urban area. All participants answered an exposure questionnaire and were tested for urinary Cr, Cu and As, while the urines of 29 participants were also tested for toxic As [As (tox)].
Results Urinary Cr and As exceeded the environmental exposure limit in 12% and 30% of participants respectively. As (tox) was detected in 30% of samples and 20.7% of As (tox) levels exceeded the environmental exposure limit of 6.4 µg/g creatinine. Urinary Cr, Cu, As and As (tox) levels were not significantly different in the two areas and amongst caterers and household residents after controlling for confounding (age, gender, education, smoking, eating fish and eating and drinking while cooking). The time spent on using wood as well as the quantity of wood used for catering and household use was weakly positively associated with urinary levels of As, Cr and the sum of As, Cr and Cu after controlling for confounding.
Conclusions This study provides evidence of Cr and As exposure amongst both street caterers and household residents and that usage of wood stocks likely to contain CCA treated timber as a fuel for food catering and household purposes may increase absorption of inorganic As and Cr.
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