PAH Exposure among Slaughterhouse and Slaughter Slab Workers Who Utilize Scrap Automobile Tires for Meat Singeing in Ghana
In Ghana and other African countries, it is common practice for slaughterhouse (SLH) and slaughter slab (SLS) workers to utilize scrap automobile tires as fuel to singe the fur of food animal carcasses intended for human consumption. This practice releases toxic substances including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carbon monoxide, benzene, particulate matter, and other toxicants into the atmosphere via smoke. PAHs are a group of over 100 organic compounds that are released during burning of tires, coal, gasoline, trash, wood, etc. Exposure to PAHs have been associated with health issues such as respiratory impairment; irritation of skin, eyes, and airways; and cancer. Studies show that 1-OHP is a reliable biomarker of exposure to PAHs – as it is a metabolite of pyrene, one of the significant components present in all PAH mixtures (Hu and Hou, 2015; Jongeneelen, 2001). The primary objective of this study was to assess PAH exposure levels among SLS/SLS operators by quantifying their urinary 1-OHP levels using HPLC-MS. Urine samples (n=59) were collected from SLH/SLS operators who use scrap tires versus liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, control) as fuel sources for meat singeing and analyzed for 1-OHP. The average concentration (±SEM) of urinary 1-OHP for individuals who utilize tires versus LPG, and production workers were 383.42±57.31 ng/ml, 301.76±41.88 ng/ml, and 250.79±15.23 ng/ml, respectively. The urinary 1-OHP data were standardized with creatinine (crt) to account for urinary dilution. After adjusting for dilution, the mean concentration of urinary 1-OHP was higher among workers utilizing tires (363.43±61.65 ng/mg crt) compared to production workers (319.75±115.49 ng/mg crt) and those who used LPG (210.47±54.17 ng/mg crt). While the mean urinary 1-OHP level among tire-based meat singeing operators was much higher compared to the controls, the difference was not statistically significant. Thus, future studies (using a larger sample size) are warranted to confirm this trend.