Traffic-related air pollution. A pilot exposure assessment in Beirut, Lebanon

Chemosphere. 2014 Feb;96:122-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.09.034. Epub 2013 Nov 1.


Traffic-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pollution has frequently been demonstrated to be a serious problem in the developing countries. Benzene and 1,3-butadiene (BD) have been classified as a human carcinogen based on evidence for an increased genotoxic and epigenotoxic effects in both occupational exposure assessment and in vivo/in vitro studies. We have undertaken a biomonitoring of 25 traffic policemen and 23 office policemen in Beirut, through personal air monitoring, assessed by diffusive samplers, as well as through the use of biomarkers of exposure to benzene and BD. Personal benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) exposure were quantified by GC-MS/MS, urinary trans, trans-muconic acid (t,t-MA) by HPLC/UV, S-phenyl mercapturic acid (S-PMA), monohydroxy-butenyl mercapturic acid (MHBMA) and dihydroxybutyl mercapturic acid (DHBMA) by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC/ESI(-)-MS/MS) in MRM (Multiple Reaction Monitoring) mode. We found that individual exposure to benzene in the traffic policemen was higher than that measured in traffic policemen in Prague, in Bologna, in Ioannina and in Bangkok. t,t-MA levels could distinguish between office and traffic policemen. However, median MHBMA levels in traffic policemen were slightly elevated, though not significantly higher than in office policemen. Alternatively, DHBMA concentrations could significantly distinguish between office and traffic policemen and showed a better correlation with personal total BTEX exposure. DHMBA, measured in the post-shift urine samples, correlated with both pre-shift MHMBA and pre-shift DHMBA. Moreover, there was not a marked effect of smoking habits on DHBMA. Taken together, these findings suggested that DHBMA is more suitable than MHBMA as biomarker of exposure to BD in humans. Traffic policemen, who are exposed to benzene and BD at the roadside in central Beirut, are potentially at a higher risk for development of diseases such as cancer than office policemen.

Keywords: 1,3-Butadiene; Benzene; Biomarkers; Occupational exposure; Traffic-related air pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / urine
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • DNA Damage
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Lebanon
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Police
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Biomarkers
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Acetylcysteine