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La Medicina del lavoro

Environmental and biological monitoring of PAHs exposure in coke-oven workers at the Taranto plant compared to two groups from the general population of Apulia, Italy.


PMID 23077795

Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) exposure in the coke industry poses a risk for workers' health as well as for subjects living in the plant vicinity. To assess PAHs exposure in coke-oven workers (CW) at the Taranto plant, Apulia, and in subjects from the general population living near (NC) and far away (FC) from the plant. Exposure was assessed by personal air sampling and urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP) measured in 100 CW 18 NC and 15 FC. Median airborne benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) levels were 152, 1.5, and 3.6 ng/m3 in CW NC, and FC, respectively. In CW, median 1-OHP increased from 1.45 to 1.96 microg/g creatinine (crt) during the work shift (p > 0.05); in NC and FC, 1-OHP levels were 0.56 and 0.53 microg/g crt. No significant differences between NC and FC for both air and urinary indices were found. BaP exposure in CW exceeded the recently proposed German acceptable (70 ng/m3) and tolerable (700 ng/m3) risk-based limit values in 82 and 11% of subjects, respectively. In NC and FC, BaP exposure exceeded the European target value for ambient air (1 ng/m3) in 67 and 60% of subjects, respectively. Biomonitoring showed that 21% of CW had 1-OHP levels higher than the proposed biological limit value for the coke-oven industry (4.4 microg/g crt), while 93% of FC, and 88% of NC, had 1-OHP levels exceeding the Italian reference value (0.3 microg/g crt). Among non-smokers, a linear regression between 1-OHP and BaP (Pearson value r = 0.65, p < 0.05) allowed us to estimate levels of 1.2 and 1.9 microg/g crt for 1-OHP end-of-shift corresponding to acceptable and tolerable limit values. Although lower than in the past, PAHs exposure in the coke plant still poses a health risk for workers and the general population and requires further efforts to improve workplace conditions.