DNA damage and repair in nail technicians caused by occupational exposure to volatile organic compounds
Van der Merwe, Nicolene
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Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine if exposure to volatile organic compounds can lead to DNA damage and impaired DNA repair capacity. Nail cosmetics is a fast growing industry around the world where employees and clients are subjected to various chemical substances which may be harmful to their health: such as formaldehyde, toluene, acetone, xylene, ethylmethacrylate, methylmethacrylate and n–buthyl acetate. These chemicals have the potential to be harmful to their health and exposure to these chemicals should be actively controlled. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the IARC, whereas, toluene and xylene are group three carcinogens, classified in 1999 (not classified as carcinogenic to humans), and various studies have linked DNA damage and impaired DNA repair to the above mentioned substances. Methods: Fifteen nail technicians were monitored by means of personal air sampling, measuring formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, acetone and ethylmethacrylate exposure. Fifteen unexposed subjects were chosen and matched for age and smoking habits with the exposed group. Heparinised blood samples were obtained from each test subject with which the Comet Assay was performed on lymphocytes to determine DNA damage and repair ability. Results: Exposure to ethylmethacrylates and methylmethacrylates leads to DNA damage. Methylmethacrylate causes DNA damage by specifically targeting pyrimidine (fpg) bases. N–buthyl acetate, xylene and acetone exposure impaired DNA repair capacity. The exposed group showed signs of Class III and Class IV DNA damage, whereas the control group had little Class III damage and no indication of Class IV damage. The overall DNA repair ability of the nail technicians was slightly impaired when compared to that of the control group, which is in concurrence with previous studies. Smoking habits and age did not show significant influences on the level of DNA damage and repair when compared with the control group. Conclusion: Exposure to volatile organic compounds such as ethylmethacryale and methylmethacrylate may lead to DNA damage and altered DNA repair in some individuals, although further studies are recommended.
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