Alterations in serum immunoglobulin levels in workers occupationally exposed to trichloroethylene.

PMID 23276795


Trichloroethylene (TCE) has been associated with a variety of immunotoxic effects and may be associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Altered serum immunoglobulin (Ig) levels have been reported in NHL patients and in animals exposed to TCE. Recently, we reported that occupational exposure to TCE is associated with immunosuppressive effects and immune dysfunction, including suppression of B-cell counts and activation, even at relatively low levels. We hypothesized that TCE exposure would also affect Ig levels in humans. We measured serum levels of IgG, IgM and IgE, by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, in TCE-exposed workers (n = 80) and unexposed controls (n = 45), matched by age and gender, in a cross-sectional, molecular epidemiology study of occupational exposure to TCE in Guangdong, China. Exposed workers had about a 17.5% decline in serum levels of IgG compared with unexposed controls (P = 0.0002). Similarly, serum levels of IgM were reduced by about 38% in workers exposed to TCE compared with unexposed controls (P < 0.0001). Serum levels of both IgG and IgM were significantly decreased in workers exposed to TCE levels below 12 p.p.m., the median exposure level. Adjustment for B-cell counts had minimal impact on our findings. IgE levels were not significantly different between exposed and control subjects. These results provide further evidence that TCE is immunotoxic at relatively low exposure levels and provide additional biologic plausibility for the reported association of TCE with NHL.