Relevance of Urinary 3-Hydroxybenzo(a)pyrene and 1-Hydroxypyrene to Assess Exposure to Carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Mixtures in Metallurgy Workers

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In metallurgy, workers are exposed to mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in which some compounds are carcinogenic. Biomonitoring of PAH exposure has been performed by measuring urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP), a metabolite of pyrene which is not carcinogenic. This study investigated the use of 3-hydroxybenzo(a)pyrene (3-OHBaP), a metabolite of benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) which is the main carcinogenic component in PAHs, to improve carcinogen exposure assessment.


We included 129 metallurgy workers routinely exposed to PAHs during working hours. Urinary samples were collected at three sampling times at the beginning and at the end of the working week for 1-OHP and 3-OHBaP analyses.


Workers in anode production showed greater exposure to both biomarkers than those in cathode or silicon production, with respectively, 71, 40, and 30% of 3-OHBaP concentrations exceeding the value of 0.4 nmol mol-1 creatinine. No difference was observed between the 3-OHBaP levels found at the end of the penultimate workday shift and those at the beginning of the last workday shift. Within these plants, the 1-OHP/3-OHBaP ratios varied greatly according to the workers' activity and emission sources. Using linear regression between these two metabolites, the 1-OHP level corresponding to the guidance value for 3-OHBaP ranged from 0.7 to 2.4 μmol mol-1 creatinine, depending on the industrial sector.


This study emphasizes the interest of monitoring urinary 3-OHBaP at the end of the last workday shift when working week exposure is relatively steady, and the irrelevance of a single guideline value for 1-OHP when assessing occupational health risk.

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