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Occupational exposure to Cr(VI): comparison between chromium levels in lymphocytes, erythrocytes, and urine.

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Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine and Kaplan Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York University School of Medicine, NY 10016, USA.


The relationships between chromium (Cr) levels in lymphocytes, erythrocytes, urine, and ambient air were compared among 14 chrome-platers from a metallurgic plant in Bulgaria and two groups of local controls, one from the same heavily polluted industrial town as the chrome-platers (n = 11) and one from a seaside resort town 100 km away (n = 6). Among the chrome-platers, the Cr concentration in peripheral lymphocytes was positively correlated with total Cr and Cr(VI) levels in ambient air and with Cr excretion in urine. As compared to the controls, the chrome-platers had mean Cr levels in lymphocytes twice as high, in erythrocytes ninefold higher, and in urine fourfold to eightfold higher. Although Cr levels in urine and lymphocytes were similar between the two control groups, levels in erythrocytes were 3 times higher among subjects from the industrial area than among those from the seaside town. The study suggests that lymphocyte Cr could be a good indicator of the Cr body burden caused by high exposures to Cr(VI), such as in electroplating operations. In these conditions, erythrocyte Cr may be less useful, possibly owing to increased toxicity due to the high affinity of erythrocytes for Cr. However, when exposure is lower, such as in most environmental situations, erythrocyte Cr should provide a better and more sensitive index than lymphocyte Cr. By contrast, urinary Cr, which provides information on total Cr exposure, including Cr(III) from dietary and environmental sources, does not seem to be of value for studying occupational exposure to Cr(VI).

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