Objectives We evaluated the association between exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and immunological measurements using blood samples from coke oven workers exposed to high and low PAH levels.
Methods A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted from 2008–2009 with coke oven workers and steel-rolling workers as the exposed and control groups, respectively. Questionnaires on basic demographic information were administered. Personal breathing zone and urine samples were collected to quantify personal PAH intake and biological response doses. Immunological and cytokine parameters in serum were analysed. Urinary malondialdehyde (MDA) and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) were analysed to determine oxidative stress induced by PAHs in relation to altered humoural immunological status.
Results Mean levels of serum immunoglobulin A (IgA) and TNF-α were significantly increased in coke oven workers compared to steel-rolling workers who had no or minimal PAH exposure (p=0.0033 and p<0.0001, respectively). There were no significant differences in mean levels of IL-4 and IL-10 between coke oven workers and steel-rolling workers. Moderate activation of lipid peroxidation and oxidative damage as determined by plasma MDA and 8-OHdG levels were detected simultaneously with significant alterations in IgA and IgE levels. Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that PAHs with high molecular weights >252 (dibenzo(a,h)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene and/or indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene) correlated with IgA and IgE levels.
Conclusions This study showed that coke oven workers with chronic exposure to PAHs may develop immunological alteration. Oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation induced by PAHs may partly explain the alteration in immunological parameters.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- oxidative stress
- lipid peroxidation
- Occupational health practice
- Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
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Funding This study was funded by grants IOSH93-M366 from the Taiwan Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, NSC 98-2314-B-037-004 from the Taiwan National Science Council, and KMU97-7R13 and KMU97-7R31 from Kaohsiung Medical University.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of Kaohsiung Medical University.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.