Occupational exposure and markers of genetic damage, systemic inflammation and lung function: a Danish cross-sectional study among air force personnel

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  • Maria Helena Guerra Andersen
  • Anne Thoustrup Saber
  • Marie Frederiksen
  • Per Axel Clausen
  • Camilla Sandal Sejbaek
  • Caroline Hallas Hemmingsen
  • Niels E. Ebbehøj
  • Julia Catalan
  • Kukka Aimonen
  • Joonas Koivisto
  • Loft, Steffen
  • Møller, Peter
  • Ulla Vogel

Air force ground crew personnel are potentially exposed to fuels and lubricants, as raw materials, vapours and combustion exhaust emissions, during operation and maintenance of aircrafts. This study investigated exposure levels and biomarkers of effects for employees at a Danish air force military base. We enrolled self-reported healthy and non-smoking employees (n = 79) and grouped them by exposure based on job function, considered to be potentially exposed (aircraft engineers, crew chiefs, fuel operators and munition specialists) or as reference group with minimal occupational exposure (avionics and office workers). We measured exposure levels to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and organophosphate esters (OPEs) by silicone bands and skin wipes (PAHs only) as well as urinary excretion of PAH metabolites (OH-PAHs). Additionally, we assessed exposure levels of ultrafine particles (UFPs) in the breathing zone for specific job functions. As biomarkers of effect, we assessed lung function, plasma levels of acute phase inflammatory markers, and genetic damage levels in peripheral blood cells. Exposure levels of total PAHs, OPEs and OH-PAHs did not differ between exposure groups or job functions, with low correlations between PAHs in different matrices. Among the measured job functions, the UFP levels were higher for the crew chiefs. The exposure level of the PAH fluorene was significantly higher for the exposed group than the reference group (15.9 +/- 23.7 ng/g per 24 h vs 5.28 +/- 7.87 ng/g per 24 h, p = 0.007), as was the OPE triphenyl phosphate (305 +/- 606 vs 19.7 +/- 33.8 ng/g per 24 h, p = 0.011). The OPE tris(1,3-dichlor-2-propyl)phosphate had a higher mean in the exposed group (60.7 +/- 135 ng/g per 24 h) compared to the reference group (8.89 +/- 15.7 ng/g per 24 h) but did not reach significance. No evidence of effects for biomarkers of systemic inflammation, genetic damage or lung function was found. Overall, our biomonitoring study show limited evidence of occupational exposure of air force ground crew personnel to UFPs, PAHs and OPEs. Furthermore, the OH-PAHs and the assessed biomarkers of early biological effects did not differ between exposed and reference groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17998
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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