OBJECTIVE: To test whether dioxins affect liver and thyroid function, lipid metabolism and glucose or immunological variables, in workers exposed to brominated dioxins and furans. METHODS: 34 male production employees (29 were extruder operators) and eight technical support personnel were studied, all of whom were potentially exposed to polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PBDDs) and furans (PBDFs) during production of resins containing polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Controls were from a similar resin producing plant that did not use PBDEs. Blood samples were analysed for tetra, penta, and hexabrominated congeners, but 2,3,7,8-TBDD was the only exposure measure used in the regression analyses. Seven liver function indicators, five measures of blood lipids and glucose, four haematology and blood coagulation measures, and three measures of thyroid function were examined. RESULTS: None of the variables was statistically related to concentration of 2,3,7,8-TBDD in the regression analyses. Cigarette smoking was related to several outcomes at the 0.05 level: aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, glutamate dehydrogenase (GLDH), erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and white blood cell count. Body mass index was also related to alanine aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase, cholinesterase, GLDH, cholesterol, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, low density lipoprotein, and glucose concentrations. No definitive associations between liver, blood lipid, thyroid, or immunological variables and exposure to brominated dioxins or blood lipid concentration of 2,3,7,8-TBDD were found. CONCLUSIONS: The study population was small and hence the findings must be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, these results provide a base for interpreting the results of clinical studies in similarly exposed populations.
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