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Genotoxicity in furnace workers

Researchers from the Kahramanmaras Sutçu Imam University and Gazi University, both in Turkey, have worked in collaboration to investigate the hazard to human DNA in furnace operating workers from a coal fired power station; the Afsin-Elbistan-A Power Plant, Turkey.

The aim of this study was to investigate the possible DNA damage in workers occupationally exposed to coal combustion products in the furnace section of the power plant.

Thermal power plants emit significant amounts of SO2 and fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and toxic organic micro pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, into the environment. Previous studies have shown that these products of combustion represent a risk to both the environment and humans. The researchers were concerned about the safety and health of workers who utilise coal and are exposed to coal combustion products in the workplace.

Blood samples were collected from 36 male power plant workers and were analysed for DNA damage by the comet assay. The researchers determined the level of DNA damage by measuring the comet tail intensity, which was measured using the Comet Assay image analysis system (Perceptive Instruments, UK). To remove experimental bias, all the slides were randomly coded and scored ‘blind’. The results were compared with those of the control group, which consisted of 34 healthy, non-furnace exposed male individuals.

The data comparison showed that mean frequency of tail intensity was significantly higher in the furnace workers when compared with the control group. The researchers believe that the DNA damage in the peripheral lymphocytes of furnace operators was possibly due to several chemical compounds present in the coal ash and gaseous emissions. The researchers also analysed the data with respect to years of exposure and the age of the individuals, to investigate the association between the marker and independent variables. However, there was no significant correlation between the years of exposure and comet tail intensity in workers.

Case study based upon:

DNA hazard in Furnace Operating Workers from a Power Plant
Kır T, Durmaz E, Ulutas OK, Cok I and Donbak L
Journal of Carcinogenesis & Mutagenesis 2011, 2:124.

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