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Biomarkers of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DNA damage: a cross-sectional pilot study among roofers in South Florida
  1. Berrin Serdar1,2,
  2. David Lee3,
  3. Zihong Dou4
  1. 1Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Florida International University, Aurora, Colorado, USA
  2. 2Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, USA
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA
  4. 4PharmaOn, Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Berrin Serdar; berrin.serdar{at}


Objective The main goal of this pilot study was to assess the technical and logistic feasibility of a future study. The research hypothesis is that occupational exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are associated with increased risk of DNA damage among roofers who work with hot asphalt.

Design This is a cross-sectional pilot study.

Setting The study included roofers from four different construction sites in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Participants 19 roofers were recruited (six Hispanics and 13 African–Americans, all male), all of whom were eligible (no history of cancer and no history of chronic diseases of kidneys or liver). All participants provided pre-shift samples and 18 provided post-shift samples. Samples of one participant were excluded from the final analyses as they were considered unreliable.

Results Levels of urinary PAH metabolites increased during 6 h of work. Linear regression models of post-shift metabolites included their pre-shift levels, post-shift urinary creatinine levels (for models of 1-OHPyr and 9-OHPhe), and skin burn due to contact with hot asphalt (for models of 1-OHPyr and 1-OHNap). Pre-shift levels of urinary 8-OHdG were not associated with any of the variables considered. For post-shift levels of 8-OHdG, however, post-shift 1-OHPyr (95% CI 0.091 to 0.788) and use of protective gloves (95% CI −1.57 to −0.61) during work explained 86.8% of its variation. Overall, highest levels of urinary PAH metabolites and of 8-OHdG were observed among workers who reported having skin burn and who did not use gloves during work.

Conclusions Urinary 1-OHPyr is a promising predictor of oxidative DNA damage among roofers. Work-related skin burn and use of protective gloves appear to influence PAH exposure and DNA damage levels in this group, suggesting the importance of dermal absorption.

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  • To cite: 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;2:e001318. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001318

  • Contributors BS and DL have participated in the conception and design and interpretation of the data. ZD contributed in laboratory analyses. BS has conducted statistical analyses and prepared the manuscript. All authors have assisted in revising the manuscript for important intellectual content, and lastly have provided final approval of the enclosed manuscript. The manuscript contains the name and contact information of the corresponding author.

  • Funding This project was in part supported by the University of South Florida Sunshine ERC grant (2T42OH008438-05/Subaward # 6402-1033-00A) from CDC-NIOSH and the FIU Foundation Research Award. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Florida International University Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.

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