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Associations between blood BTEXS concentrations and hematologic parameters among adult residents of the U.S. Gulf States

Doherty, Brett T., Kwok, Richard K., Curry, Matthew D., Ekenga, Christine, Chambers, David, Sandler, Dale P., Engel, Lawrence S.
Environmental research 2017 v.156 pp. 579-587
adults, air, benzene, ethylbenzene, hematologic tests, hemoglobin, leukocytes, questionnaires, styrene, tobacco, toluene, volatile organic compounds, xylene, United States
Studies of workers exposed to benzene at average air concentrations below one part per million suggest that benzene, a known hematotoxin, causes hematopoietic damage even at low exposure levels. However, evidence of such effects outside of occupational settings and for other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is limited.To investigate associations between ambient exposures to five VOCs, including benzene, and hematologic parameters among adult residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast.Blood concentrations of selected VOCs were measured in a sample of adult participants in the Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study (GuLF STUDY) during 2012 and 2013. Complete blood counts with differentials were also performed on a subset of participants (n=406). We used these data together with detailed questionnaire data to estimate adjusted associations between blood BTEXS (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, o-xylene, m/p-xylene, and styrene) concentrations and hematologic parameters using generalized linear models.We observed inverse associations between blood benzene concentrations and hemoglobin concentration and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, and a positive association with red cell distribution width among tobacco smoke-unexposed participants (n=146). Among tobacco smoke-exposed participants (n=247), we observed positive associations between blood VOC concentrations and several hematologic parameters, including increased white blood cell and platelet counts, suggestive of hematopoietic stimulation typically associated with tobacco smoke exposure. Most associations were stronger for benzene than for the other VOCs.Our results suggest that ambient exposure to BTEXS, particularly benzene, may be associated with hematologic effects, including decreased hemoglobin concentration, mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, and increased red cell distribution width.