Iron foundry workers, exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), silica, and metal fumes and dusts, are at elevated risk of lung cancer. Benzo(a)pyrene and a number of structurally related PAHs are metabolically activated to diol epoxides (e.g., 7β,8α-dihydroxy-9α,10α-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene) which are mutagenic, carcinogenic in experimental animals, and form covalent adducts with DNA. The levels of these adducts were measured in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using a polyclonal anti-benzo(a)pyrene diol epoxide-I-DNA antibody which cross-reacts with DNA modified by diol epoxides of structurally related PAHs. DNA was analyzed from peripheral blood cells of 35 Finnish foundry workers and 10 controls.

Workers were classified as having low (<0.05 µg/m3), medium (0.05–0.2 µg/m3), or high (>0.2 µg/m3) exposure to benzo(a)pyrene (as an indicator of PAH). When adjustment was made for cigarette smoking and time since vacation, benzo(a)pyrene exposure was significantly related to adduct levels (P = 0.0001). Each of the three exposure groups had significantly elevated adduct levels compared to controls. Among the exposed workers, the low group differed significantly from the high and medium categories. This study supports the usefulness of monitoring adduct formation in a population occupationally exposed to carcinogens.

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This work is supported by grants from NIH (CA35809 and CA39174), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (ES03881), and the Council for Tobacco Research USA, Inc. (1483A).

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