Application of the Salmonella mutagenicity assay and determination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in workplaces exposed to petroleum pitch and petroleum coke

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1982 Feb;49(3-4):223-39. doi: 10.1007/BF00377932.


Workplaces of an Italian carbon electrode factory, exposed to petroleum pitch and petroleum coke, were studied using a coupled chemical and biological approach to evaluate occupational mutagenic/carcinogenic hazards. Analytical procedures for the determination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and Salmonella/microsome mutagenicity tests (with TA98 and TA100 strains) were performed on both industrial ingredients (pitch and coke) and airborne particulate matter of the working environment, after fractionating by sequential Soxhlet extractions with four organic solvents of increasing polarity (benzene, chloroform, methanol and acetone). The results showed: (a) the presence of extraordinarily high PAH (carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic) contents in the benzene extracts of petroleum pitch (3.6 wt% of total PAH) and of airborne particulate samples (up to 0.35 wt% of total PAH), in correlation with very high indirect (after metabolic activation) mutagenic responses of benzene extracts with strain TA98; (b) very high indirect mutagenic responses in the other extracts of the airborne particulate samples (especially with strain TA98); (c) the production during the processing at high temperatures of directly acting mutagens (without metabolic activation) which were absent in the starting materials and their release in the air of workplaces. The comparison of chemical analytical and mutagenicity data has proved to be an interesting approach for better defining the relative health hazards due to occupational exposure to potentially mutagenic/carcinogenic petroleum products.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens / analysis*
  • Petroleum*
  • Polycyclic Compounds / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Compounds / pharmacology
  • Salmonella typhimurium / drug effects


  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Mutagens
  • Petroleum
  • Polycyclic Compounds