Biomonitoring of genotoxic risk in workers in a rubber factory: comparison of the Comet assay with cytogenetic methods and immunology

Mutat Res. 1999 Sep 30;445(2):181-92. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5718(99)00125-4.


Several substances used in rubber processing are known to be genotoxic. Workers in a rubber tyre factory, exposed to a broad spectrum of contaminants such as benzo[a]pyrene, benzo-fluoranthene, naphthalene, acetonaphthene, alkenes and 1,3-butadiene have been regularly examined for several years: chromosomal aberrations in lymphocytes, mutagenicity of urine (by use of the Ames test) and various parameters of blood and urine were assessed. An elevated level of mercapturic acid derivatives was found in the urine of employees, which is indicative of environmental exposure to toxicants with alkylating activity. We have now extended this study by examining genotoxicity with the modified Comet assay in parallel with chromosomal aberrations and micronucleus formation as well as immunological endpoints. Twenty-nine exposed workers from this factory were compared with 22 non-exposed administrative staff working in the same factory, as well as with 22 laboratory workers. The absolute numbers of peripheral leukocytes were significantly higher in the exposed group than in either of the control groups (p < 0.001). The erythrocyte mean cell volume was significantly higher in exposed workers in comparison with laboratory controls (p < 0.05). Percentages of lymphocytes, polymorphonuclear leukocytes, monocytes and eosinophils were not altered. The proliferative response of T- and B-cells to mitogen treatment when calculated per number of lymphocytes and adjusted for smoking, age and years of exposure did not differ between exposed and control groups. Endogenous strand breaks (including alkali-labile sites) and altered bases (formamidopyrimidine glycosylase- and endonuclease III-sensitive sites) were measured by the Comet assay in lymphocyte DNA. Exposed workers had significantly elevated levels of DNA breaks compared with office workers (p < 0.00001) or with laboratory controls (p < 0.00001). Micronuclei occurred at significantly higher frequencies in the exposed group than in controls (p < 0.00001), though the frequencies were all within the normal range. Significant correlations were seen between individual values of strand breaks, micronuclei and chromatid/chromosome breaks and certain immunological parameters.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Chemical Industry
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Comet Assay*
  • Cytogenetic Analysis*
  • DNA Damage
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Female
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / drug effects
  • Micronucleus Tests*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Rubber
  • Slovakia


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Rubber