Acrylonitrile exposure assessment in the emergency responders of a major train accident in Belgium: A human biomonitoring study

On 4 May 2013, a train transporting chemicals derailed in Wetteren, Belgium. Several tanks loaded with acrylonitrile (ACN) exploded, resulting in a fire and a leakage of ACN. This study determined the exposure to ACN and assessed the discriminating factors for ACN exposure in the emergency responders involved in the on-site management of the train accident. The study population consisted of 841 emergency responders. Between 21 May and 28 June, they gave blood for the determination of N-2-cyanoethylvaline (CEV) haemoglobin adducts and urine for the measurement of cotinine. They also filled in a short questionnaire. One hundred and sixty-three (26%) non-smokers and 55 (27%) smokers showed CEV concentrations above the reference values of 10 and 200pmol/g globin, respectively. The 95th percentile in the non-smokers was 73pmol/g globin and the maximum was 452pmol/g globin. ACN exposure among the non-smokers was predicted by (1) the distance to the accident, (2) the duration of exposure, and (3) the occupational function. Emergency responders involved in the on-site management of the train accident were clearly exposed to ACN from the accident. However, the extent of exposure remained relatively moderate with CEV concentrations staying within the ranges described in literature as background for a smoking population. Moreover, the exposure was less pronounced in the emergency responders as compared to that in the local population.

Authors: Van Nieuwenhuyse A, Fierens S, De Smedt T, De Cremer K, Vleminckx C, Mertens B, Van Overmeire I, Bader M, De Paepe P, Göen T, Nemery B, Schettgen T, Stove C, Van Oyen H, Van Loco J. ;Full Source: Toxicology Letters. 2014 Aug 13. pii: S0378-4274(14)01300-9. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.08.013. [Epub ahead of print] ;