Interactions between physical and chemical agents in the assessment of occupational exposure
Keywords:occupational exposure; human biomonitoring; physical agents; chemical agents; interactions.
In the assessment of occupational risks, many possible sources are present, that can be grouped as chemical, physical and biological. When chemical and physical risk agents are present simultaneously, their interaction can lead to an increase in the adverse health effect on the exposed workers. In the present work three cases have been studied, that are examples of this phenomenon.
The study concerned the simultaneous exposure to noise and volatile organic compounds in a fiberglass manufacturing company, the exposure to plant protection products in correlation with the microclimate inside a greenhouse and the exposure of divers to hyperbaric atmospheres in correlation with physical exercise.
Exposure was assessed by means of biological monitoring, measuring biological dose (where possible) and effect biomarkers. The results of the study on the fiberglass workers showed that they are exposed to styrene levels (a carcinogenic and ototoxic agent) close to occupational limit values. The tests based on otoacoustic emissions (effect biomarker of hearing damage) are able to discriminate between workers and controls.
Divers are exposed simultaneously to an increased partial pressure of oxygen by inhalation and to an increased pressure of water on the whole body. This process could induce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress to nucleic acids can be assessed measuring the oxidation products of guanine in RNA and DNA. The results show an increase in urinary excretion of 8-oxy-7,8-dihydroguanosine and 8-oxy -7,8-dihydro-2'-deoxyguanosine, after 2.5 - 4 hours from the start of the experiment. The results of an untargeted NMR metabolomic analysis show that the urinary concentration of hypoxanthine, a metabolite of purine metabolism associated with physical exercise, also increases during the underwater experiment.
In the study of the possible increase in dermal exposure correlated to the microclimatic conditions of the greenhouse, an "instant" risk index between 0 and 100 was defined. It refers to the probability of cutaneous intake of pesticides, based on the level of sweating as a function of the temperature, relative humidity and solar radiation inside the greenhouse, with consequent damage to the skin "barrier" function.
The experimental results on skin barrier alterations confirm an increase in the risk index inside the greenhouse due to the microclimatic conditions. These conditions favour the persistence of pesticides on the skin and increase the risk of dermal absorption.
The result of these studies showed how Biological Monitoring can be used to assess exposure both to chemical and physical agents, and to their possible synergy.
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