Accidental exposure to gas emissions from transit goods treated for pest control

International phytosanitary standards ISPM 15 require (since 2007) fumigation or heat treatment for shipping and storage. Those dealing with fumigated freight might be accidentally exposed. In this study, the authors report a series of three accidents of six storage room workers in a medium sized company regularly importing electronic production parts from abroad. Patients (n=6, aged from 32-54 yrs.) and control group (n=30, mean 40 yrs.) donated blood and urine samples. The fumigants: ethylene oxide, methyl bromide, chloropicrin, ethylene dichloride, other halo-alkanes and solvents were analysed by headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GCMS). For the quantitation of long term exposure/s, macromolecular reaction products (haemoglobin adducts) were used (with GCMS) as molecular dosimeter; additionally 8-OHdG and circulating mtDNA (cmtDNA) were analysed as nonspecific biological effect markers. The haemoglobin adducts N-methyl valine (MEV) and N-(2-hydroxy ethyl) valine (HEV) were elevated after exposure to the alkylating chemicals methyl bromide and ethylene oxide. Under the consideration of known elimination kinetics and the individual smoking status (biomonitored with nicotine metabolite cotinine and tobacco specific haemoglobin adduct: N-(2 cyan ethyl) valines, CEV), the data allow theoretical extrapolation to the initial protein adduct concentrations at the time of the accident (the MEV/CEV levels were from 1,616 pmol/g globin to 1,880 pmol/g globin and HEV/CEV levels from 1,407 pmol/g globin to 5,049 pmol/g globin, and correlated with inhaled 0.4-1.5 ppm ethylene oxide. These integrated, extrapolated internal doses, calculated on the basis of biological exposure equivalents, confirmed the clinical diagnosis for three patients, showing severe intoxication symptoms. Both, cmtDNA and 8-OHdG, as non-specific biomarkers of toxic effects, were elevated in four patients. The cases reported here, stress the importance of a suitable risk assessment and control measures. We put emphasis on the necessity of human biomonitoring guidelines and the urgency for the relevant limit values.

Authors: Kloth S, Baur X, Göen T, Budnik LT. ;Full Source: Environmental Health. 2014 Dec 13;14(1):110. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-110. ;