The objective of the study is to investigate the effects on human health of occupational exposure to petroleum fuels. With this aim, the occurrence of genetic damage in blood cells and the mortality in exposed populations are analyzed.
Petroleum fuels contain sizeable amounts of known human and animal carcinogens, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene. Despite the wide human exposure to fuel vapours, the health effects deriving from the use of petroleum fuels has not been elucidated. To clarify this relationship, studies on human populations with high exposure levels are undertaken, and used as a model for the estimation of risks in the general population.
Populations with high occupational exposures to petroleum fuels (filling station attendants, refinery workers) and a group of workers employed in the manufacturing of benzene are selected for environmental and biological monitoring. In addition, an epidemiological survey on filling station managers is carried out, as is a study of populations in the vicinity of a large oil refinery.
In order to quantitate the levels of exposure to benzene and other hydrocarbons in the selected populations, individual exposure profiles are defined by repeated personal sampling of inhaled air and by the analysis of exhaled air.
In the biological monitoring of exposed populations and matched control groups, a range of methodologies for the detection of early genetic or adverse effects are applied. The occurrence of genetic effects is evaluated by the cytogenetic analysis of perpheral lymphocytes, which is known to be a sensitive indicator of low-level exposure to genotoxic agents. Different end-points (sister chromatid exchanges, structural chromosome aberrations, micronuclei) are investigated. Sub-groups of workers with high exposure levels are also studied to evaluate the effects of their exposure on DNA adducts in white blood cells (as detected by 32P-postlabelling), and on blood levels of oncogene products and mitogen-induced blastogenesis.
The consequence of long-term, low-level exposure to petroleum fuels is addressed in a retrospective mortality study on a few cohorts of Italian filling station managers, where the mortality data are analyzed in relation to the intensity of the exposure, estimated by the use of available qualitative and semi-quantitative indices (e.g. length of employment, number of fuel supplies, amount of fuel sold).
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
SM5 4DS Carshalton