Lack of genotoxic effect in workers exposed to very low doses of 1,3-butadiene

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1,3-butadiene (BD), a probable carcinogen to humans, has been shown to have an ill-defined genotoxicity in occupationally exposed workers. In the present study, the influence of exposure to very low doses of BD and to cigarette smoking was investigated on some cytogenetic endpoints, namely, sister chromatid exchanges (SCE), chromosomal aberrations (CA) and cells with a high frequency of SCE (HFC), in peripheral blood lymphocytes. Twenty-seven male workers employed in a petrochemical plant and 26 matched controls were included in the study. As regards the airborne BD values, there was a significant difference between exposed (median BD value 1.5, min-max 0.2-69.0 μg/m3) and non-exposed workers (median BD value 0.4, min-max <0.1-3.8 μg/m3). Genotoxic biomarkers were not able to distinguish between the two groups. The frequency of SCE was higher in smokers than in non-smokers (p=0.001), with a positive correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked per day and both SCE (r=0.4; p=0.004) and HFC frequency (r=0.3; p=0.04). Multiple regression analysis confirmed the influence of cigarette smoking on the level of SCE and HFC, while these parameters were not affected by personal exposure to BD. Overall, the biomarkers of genotoxic effect investigated in our study were not able to discriminate between workers with a very low exposure to BD and controls, while it was possible to distinguish between smokers and non-smokers on the basis of SCE.

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