A research team in Taiwan studied the effects of exposure to traffic fumes at 20 toll booths located on a motorway 10 km south of Taipei, Taiwan, which has the highest traffic density of any toll station in the country.
The team assessed the amount of a chemical called 1-OHPG in the urine of 47 female motorway toll-booth operators and 27 female office workers. This is an indicator of DNA damage caused by oxygen free radical activity in the body. They also took blood samples to measure the levels of circulating nitric oxide, which indicates harmful oxidation associated with traffic fumes. The operators worked in eight hour shifts, for four consecutive days, before taking a day off. During their shift, they took breaks of between 30 and 45 minutes every couple of hours. They regularly changed lane booth, working a rotation system.Smoking which also increases the amount of urinary 8-OHdG, was taken into account; there were more smokers among the office workers.
However the levels of urinary 8-OHdG were on average 90% higher among the non-smoking toll booth operators than they were among the office workers and levels of nitric oxide were on average 30% higher.
The levels of 1-OHPG were strongly linked to the levels of 8-OHdG. The higher the 1-OHPG, the higher was the 8-OHdG.This was true even after an adjustment for smoking or mode of transport to work was made.
The researchers concluded that traffic fumes boost oxygen free radical activity and therefore DNA damage, and advise that environmental levels should be curbed to protect people's health.
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