Indexed on: 12 Oct '12Published on: 12 Oct '12Published in: Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
Coal is the largest fossil fuel source used for the generation of energy. However, coal extraction and its use constitute important pollution factors; thus, risk characterization and estimation are extremely important for the safety of coal workers and the environment. Candiota is located to the southeast of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and has the largest coal reserves in Brazil, and the largest thermal power complex in the state. In the open-cast mines, the coal miners are constantly exposed to coal dust. The human buccal micronucleus cytome (BMCyt) assay has been used widely to investigate biomarkers for DNA damage, cell death, and basal cell frequency in buccal cells. The aim of this study was to assess whether prolonged exposure to coal dust could lead to an increase in genomic instability, cell death, and frequency of basal cells using the BMCyt assay. In the analysis of epithelial cells, the exposed group (n = 41) presented with a significantly higher frequency of basal cells, micronuclei in basal and differentiated cells, and binucleated cells compared to the non-exposed group (n = 29). The exposed group showed a significantly lower frequency of condensed chromatin cells than the non-exposed group. However, we found no correlation between DNA damage and metal concentration in the blood of mine workers. DNA damage observed in the mine workers may be a consequence of oxidative damage resulting from exposure to coal residue mixtures. In addition, our findings confirm that the BMCyt assay can be used to identify occupational risk.