Occupational exposure in airport personnel: characterization and evaluation of genotoxic and oxidative effects

Toxicology. 2006 Jun 1;223(1-2):26-35. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2006.03.003. Epub 2006 Apr 18.


Airport personnel can be exposed to several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from jet fuel vapours, jet fuel combustion products and diesel exhaust. The aim of this study was to characterize the exposure and to evaluate genotoxic and oxidative effects in airport personnel (n=41) in comparison with a selected control group (n=31). Environmental monitoring of exposure was carried out analysing 23 PAHs on air samples collected from airport apron, airport building and terminal/office area during 5 working days. The urinary 1-hydroxy-pyrene (1-OHP) following 5 working days, was used as biomarker of exposure. Genotoxic effects and early direct-oxidative DNA damage were evaluated by micronucleus (MN) and Fpg-modified comet assay on lymphocytes and exfoliated buccal cells, and by chromosomal aberrations (CA) and sister chromatid exchange (SCE) analyses. For comet assay, tail moment (the product of comet relative tail intensity and length) values from Fpg-enzyme treated cells (TMenz) and from untreated cells (TM) were used as parameters of oxidative and direct DNA damage, respectively. We found 27,703 microg/m(3) total PAHs in airport apron, 17,275 microg/m(3) in airport building and 9,494 microg/m(3) in terminal/office area. Urinary OH-pyrene did not show differences between exposed and controls. The exposed group showed a higher mean value of SCE frequency in respect to controls (4.6 versus 3.8) and an increase (1.3-fold) of total structural CA in particular breaks (up to 2.0-fold) and fragments (0.32% versus 0.00%), whereas there were no differences of MN frequency in both cellular types. Comet assay evidenced in the exposed group a higher value in respect to controls of mean TM and TMenz in both exfoliated buccal cells (TM 118.87 versus 68.20, p=0.001; TMenz 146.11 versus 78.32, p<0.001) and lymphocytes (TM 43.01 versus 36.01, p=0.136; TMenz 55.86 versus 43.98, p=0.003). An oxidative DNA damage was found, for exfoliated buccal cells in the 9.7% and for lymphocytes in the 14.6% of exposed in respect to the absence in controls. Our findings furnish a useful contribution to the characterization of civil airport exposure and suggest the use of comet assay on exfoliated buccal cells to assess the occupational exposure to mixtures of inhalable pollutants at low doses since these cells represent the target tissue for this exposure and are obtained by non-invasive procedure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / urine
  • Aviation* / standards
  • Comet Assay
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective / chemically induced
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / cytology
  • Mouth Mucosa / drug effects
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / urine
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange / drug effects
  • Workplace / standards


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Mutagens
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons