Association of internal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with inflammation and oxidative stress in prediabetic and healthy individuals

Chemosphere. 2020 Aug;253:126748. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.126748. Epub 2020 Apr 11.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are key air pollutants that may contribute to the risk of numerous diseases by inducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Individuals with metabolic disorders may be more susceptible to PAH-induced inflammation and oxidative stress. To test this hypothesis, we designed a panel study involving 60 patients with pre-type 2 diabetes (pre-T2D) and 60 reference participants, and conducted up to seven repeated clinical examinations. Urinary metabolites of PAHs (i.e., OH-PAHs), measured as indicators of total PAH exposure, showed significant associations with markers of respiratory and systemic inflammation, including exhaled nitric oxide, interleukin (IL)-6 in exhaled breath condensate, and blood IL-2 and IL-8 levels and leucocyte count. The most significant effect was on urinary malondiadehyde (MDA), a marker of lipid peroxidation; a onefold increase of OH-PAHs was associated with 9.2-46.0% elevation in MDA in pre-T2D participants and 9.8-31.2% increase in healthy references. Pre-T2D participants showed greater increase in MDA, suggesting that metabolic disorder enhanced the oxidative damage induced by PAH exposure. This study revealed the association between PAH exposure and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, and the enhanced responses of pre-T2D patients suggested that individuals with metabolic disorders were more susceptible to the adverse health effects of PAH exposure.

Keywords: Inflammation; Metabolic disorder; Oxidative stress; PAH exposure; Susceptibility.

MeSH terms

  • 8-Hydroxy-2'-Deoxyguanosine
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Deoxyguanosine / urine
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / metabolism
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Prediabetic State / epidemiology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • 8-Hydroxy-2'-Deoxyguanosine
  • Deoxyguanosine