Methods: Blood and urine samples were collected immediately after a shift at the end of a working week from 50 coke oven workers and 50 control workers not exposed to PAHs. Methods included: (1) biomarkers of exposure: urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (HpU), urinary mutagenicity by the plate Salmonella test with strains TA98 and YG1024 after metabolic activation, expressed as mutagenic rate (MR98 and MR1024, respectively), urinary cotinine; and (2) biomarkers of biological effects in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL): sister chromatid exchanges (SCE/cell), cells of high frequency of SCE (% HFC), micronuclei (MN/1000 cells), chromosomal aberrations (CA/100 cells), and DNA damage by the Comet assay.
Results: Occupational exposure to PAH resulted in significantly increased levels of HpU and mutagenic effect of urine. Median values of these biomarkers in coke oven workers were: 9.0 µmol/mol creatinine for HpU, 2.7 for MR98, and 8.2 for MR1024, compared to the controls: HpU = 0.6 µmol/mol creatinine, MR98 = 1.2, and MR1024 = 5.5. Occupational exposure caused significant induction of SCE, HFC, and MN in coke oven workers: median SCE = 5.9, HFC = 12.0%, MN = 6.0 compared to the controls: 3.9, 5.0%, and 3.0, respectively. No effect of occupational exposure was found in relation to CA and DNA damage measured with the Comet assay. HpU concentration was positively associated with SCE and HFC. The concentration of urinary 1-hydroxypyrene corresponding to a 5% probability of increased SCE was 1.0 µmol/mol creatinine.
Conclusions: The occupational exposure to PAHs resulted in measurable biological effects (SCE, HFC, MN). In coke oven workers an increased level of SCE was not observed below the level of 1.0 µmol HpU/mol creatinine.