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J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2018 Jan;28(1):84-91. doi: 10.1038/jes.2016.86. Epub 2017 Feb 8.

Systemic serum amyloid A as a biomarker for exposure to zinc and/or copper-containing metal fumes.

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Institute for Occupational and Social Medicine, Aachen University of Technology, Pauwelsstr, Germany.
ISF - Welding and Joining Institute, Aachen University of Technology, Pontstraße, Germany.


Zinc- and copper-containing welding fumes increase systemic C-reactive protein (CRP). The aim of this study was to investigate the performance of the biomarkers serum amyloid A (SAA) and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) in this regard. Fifteen male subjects were exposed under controlled conditions to welding fumes containing either zinc, or copper, or copper and zinc for 6 h. Plasma samples were collected before, 6 and 24 h after start of exposure and biomarkers therein were measured by electrochemiluminescent assay. For each exposure, systemic concentrations of systemic SAA, but not VCAM-1, increased significantly at 24 h after exposure start compared with baseline ("copper only": P=0.0005, "zinc only": P=0.027, "copper and zinc": P=0.001). SAA showed a wider range of concentrations than did CRP and its levels increased up to 19-fold after welding fume exposure. The recognition of copper as a potential harmful component in welding fumes, also independent from zinc, deserves further consideration. SAA might represent a new sensitive biomarker for potential subclinical sterile inflammation after inhalation of copper- and/or zinc-containing welding fumes. As elevations of CRP and SAA protein have both been linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, these findings might particularly be important for long-term welders.

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