Background: Studies from several countries indicate that welders experience increased risk of mortality and morbidity from ischaemic heart disease. Although the underlying mechanisms are unclear, vascular responses to particulate matter contained in welding fumes may play a role. To investigate this, we studied the acute effects of welding fume exposure on the endothelial component of vascular function, as measured by circulating adhesion molecules involved in leukocyte adhesion (sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1) and coagulation (vWF).
Methods: A panel of 26 male welders was studied repeatedly across a 6 h work-shift on a high exposure welding day and/or a low exposure non-welding day. Personal PM2.5 exposure was measured throughout the work-shift. Blood samples were collected in the morning (baseline) prior to the exposure period, immediately after the exposure period, and the following morning. To account for the repeated measurements, we used linear mixed models to evaluate the effects of welding (binary) and PM2.5 (continuous) exposure on each blood marker, adjusting for baseline blood marker concentration, smoking, age and time of day.
Results: Welding and PM2.5 exposure were significantly associated with a decrease in sVCAM-1 in the afternoon and the following morning and an increase in vWF in the afternoon.
Conclusions: The data suggest that welding and short-term occupational exposure to PM2.5 may acutely affect the endothelial component of vascular function.
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Funding The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) (grant numbers ES009860 and ES00002) supported this work. SF was supported by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) training grant T42 OH008416 and JC was supported by NIOSH and NIEHS training grants T42 OH008416 and T32 ES07069.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval The Institutional Review Board of the Harvard School of Public Health approved the study protocol.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.