Wildland (forest) firefighters are exposed to a wide range of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in forest fire smoke. PAH undergo metabolic activation and can subsequently bind to DNA. In this study, we investigated the association between occupational and dietary PAH exposures and the formation of WBC PAH-DNA adducts in a population of wildland firefighters. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using an antiserum elicited against benzo(a)pyrene-modified DNA was used to measure PAH-DNA adducts in WBC obtained from 47 California firefighters at two time points, early and late in the 1988 forest fire season. PAH-DNA adduct levels were not associated with cumulative hours of recent firefighting activity. However, firefighters who consumed charbroiled food within the previous week had elevated PAH-DNA adduct levels, which were related to frequency of charbroiled food intake. These findings suggest that dietary sources of PAH contribute to PAH-DNA adduct levels in peripheral WBC and should be evaluated when using this assay to assess occupational and environmental PAH exposure.

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