Posted on Sep 04, 2012, 6 a.m.
Roofers and road construction workers who use hot asphalt experience elevated blood high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are linked with increased rates of DNA damage, and potentially with higher cancer risk.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals that are produced by the incomplete combustion of organic materials. Generally considered to be human carcinogens, the highest exposure is among occupational groups who use hot asphalt in their day-to-day job duties, such as roofers and road construction workers. University of Colorado Cancer Center researchers report that such workers have higher PAH blood-levels after working a shift and that these high levels of PAHs are linked with increased rates of DNA damage, and potentially with higher cancer risk. Berrin Serdar and colleagues studied 19 roofers from four work sites in the greater-Miami (Florida, USA) area. Participants’ urine samples, provided before and after a 6-hour shift, showed that after acute exposure to hot asphalt, PAH biomarkers were elevated. Overall, biomarkers of PAH exposure and oxidative DNA damage (8-OHdG) were highest among workers who didn’t use protective gloves and workers who also reported work related skin burns, pointing to the role of PAH absorption through skin.
Serdar B, Lee D, Dou Z. “Biomarkers of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DNA damage: a cross-sectional pilot study among roofers in South Florida.” BMJ Open. 2012 Jul 19;2(4). pii: e001318.