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BMJ Open. 2012 Jul 19;2(4). pii: e001318. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001318. Print 2012.

Biomarkers of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DNA damage: a cross-sectional pilot study among roofers in South Florida.

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  • 1Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Florida International University, Aurora, Colorado, USA.



The main goal of this pilot study was to assess the technical and logistic feasibility of a future study. The research hypothesis is that occupational exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are associated with increased risk of DNA damage among roofers who work with hot asphalt.


This is a cross-sectional pilot study.


The study included roofers from four different construction sites in Miami-Dade County, Florida.


19 roofers were recruited (six Hispanics and 13 African-Americans, all male), all of whom were eligible (no history of cancer and no history of chronic diseases of kidneys or liver). All participants provided pre-shift samples and 18 provided post-shift samples. Samples of one participant were excluded from the final analyses as they were considered unreliable.


Levels of urinary PAH metabolites increased during 6 h of work. Linear regression models of post-shift metabolites included their pre-shift levels, post-shift urinary creatinine levels (for models of 1-OHPyr and 9-OHPhe), and skin burn due to contact with hot asphalt (for models of 1-OHPyr and 1-OHNap). Pre-shift levels of urinary 8-OHdG were not associated with any of the variables considered. For post-shift levels of 8-OHdG, however, post-shift 1-OHPyr (95% CI 0.091 to 0.788) and use of protective gloves (95% CI -1.57 to -0.61) during work explained 86.8% of its variation. Overall, highest levels of urinary PAH metabolites and of 8-OHdG were observed among workers who reported having skin burn and who did not use gloves during work.


Urinary 1-OHPyr is a promising predictor of oxidative DNA damage among roofers. Work-related skin burn and use of protective gloves appear to influence PAH exposure and DNA damage levels in this group, suggesting the importance of dermal absorption.

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