Urinary hydroxylated metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as biomarkers of exposure in asphalt workers.

Research paper by M M Buratti, L L Campo, S S Fustinoni, P E PE Cirla, I I Martinotti, D D Cavallo, V V Foa

Indexed on: 25 Apr '07Published on: 25 Apr '07Published in: Biomarkers : biochemical indicators of exposure, response, and susceptibility to chemicals


Fumes and vapours released during laying of hot asphalt mix have been recognised as a major source of exposure for asphalt workers.We investigated the relationships between inhalation exposure to asphalt emissions and urinary biomarkers of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in asphalt workers (AW, n=75) and in ground construction workers (CW, n=37).Total polyaromatic compounds (PAC) and 15 priority PAHs in inhaled air were measured by personal sampling. Hydroxylated PAH metabolites (OH-PAHs) (2-naphthol, 2-hydroxyfluorene, 3-hydroxyphenanthrene, 1-hydroxypyrene, 6-hydroxychrysene and 3-hydroxybenzo[a]pyrene) were determined in urine spot samples collected in three different times during the work week.Median vapour-phase PAC (5.5 microg m(-3)), PAHs (<or=50 ng m(-3)) and OH-PAHs (0.08-1.11 microg l(-1)) were significantly higher in AW than in CW, except in the cases of air naphthalene and 2-naphthol. Airborne levels of particle-phase contaminants were similar in the two groups and much lower than vapour-phase levels; metabolites of particulate PAHs were never found in quantifiable amounts. An appreciable increase in OH-PAH levels during the work day and work week was found in AW; median levels for 2-hydroxyfluorene, 3-hydroxyphenanthrene and 1-hydroxypyrene were, respectively, 0.29, 0.08 and 0.18 at baseline; 0.50, 0.18 and 0.29, pre-shift; 1.11, 0.44 and 0.44 microg l(-1), post-shift. Each OH-PAH exhibited a characteristic profile of increase, reflecting differences in half-lives of the parent compounds. In non-smoking subjects, positive correlations were found between vapour-phase PAC or PAHs and OH-PAHs both in pre- and post-shift samples (0.34 <or= r<or=69). Smokers exhibited 2-5-fold higher OH-PAHs than non-smokers, at any time and at both workplaces.Our results suggest that OH-PAHs are useful biomarkers for monitoring exposure to asphalt emissions. The work-related exposure to PAC and PAHs was low in all AW, but urinary metabolites reflected exposure satisfactorily.