Exposure to air pollution in general population living in urban and rural environment: urinary benzene as biological index of exposure

Carmela Protano, Massimiliano Varde', Matteo Vitali


Evidence is needed regarding air pollutant exposure in general population. One of the most important contributors to air urban pollution is benzene, a widespread air pollutant present both in outdoor and indoor environments, and a well known human carcinogen. The aim of our study was to investigate the use of urinary (u) unmodified benzene (UB) as a biomarker of air environmental pollution for general population. u-UB and u-cotinine were measured in urine samples of 243 Italian children (5-11 years) recruited in a cross-sectional study. Urine samples were collected at the end of the day, an analytical determination of benzene was performed by solid-phase micro-extraction (SPME) – GC/MS. Analytical results were compared with data obtained from questionnaires about participants’ main potential exposure factors. The main findings were that u-UB levels were influenced by secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure and urbanization of residence areas. In addition, data showed that, excluding children exposed to SHS, u-UB concentrations were about 2-fold higher in subjects living in urban areas than in those in the rural environment (medians=210.50 and 92.50 ng/L, respectively). These results were confirmed by multivariate linear regression model. In conclusion, we found that u-UB is a good biomarker of benzene exposure in general population. In addition, u-UB could be considered as a synthetic biological index for the assessment of population exposure to atmospheric pollution.


Benzene pollution

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