In vitro studies of the genotoxic effects of bitumen and coal-tar fume condensates: comparison of data obtained by mutagenicity testing and DNA adduct analysis by 32P-postlabelling

Chem Biol Interact. 1996 Aug 14;101(2):73-88. doi: 10.1016/0009-2797(96)03705-2.


Bitumens contain traces of polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs), a part of which will end up in the fumes emitted during hot handling of bitumen-containing products, e.g. during roadpaving. Although exposure of workers to these fumes is low, it might lead to health problems. Studies on bitumen fume condensates (BFCs) showed weak to moderate mutagenic activities, but studies on DNA adduct formation have not been reported. Therefore, a study was initiated in which fumes were generated from two road grade bitumens, in such a way that they were representative of the fumes produced in the field. The combined vapour/particulates were tested in vitro for their ability to produce DNA adducts and in modified Ames mutation assays, using a number of different strains. An attempt was made to relate the results to chemical data, such as the content of a number of individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and with a measure for the total PAC content. As a reference material fume condensate from coal-tar (coal-tar pitch volatiles; CTPV) were subjected to the same tests. All fume condensates tested were mutagenic to all strains and induced the formation of DNA adducts. The patterns of DNA adducts, obtained by 32P-postlabelling, arising from the BFCs were qualitatively different from the patterns of adducts obtained from the CTPVs, implying qualitative differences in the nature of the compounds responsible for the formation of these adducts. This is corroborated by the observation that for BFCs quantitative adduct levels are higher than would be expected based on the PAH content. These data thus indicate that the PAHs analysed are not the sole components responsible for adduct formation from BFCs, but that an important contribution comes from other (hetero- and/or substituted-) PACs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coal / analysis
  • Coal / toxicity*
  • DNA Adducts / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Male
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Polycyclic Compounds / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Coal
  • DNA Adducts
  • Polycyclic Compounds