Association between exposure to a mixture of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and styrene (BTEXS) and small airways function: A cross-sectional study


Background: The lung is one of the primary target organs of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and styrene (BTEXS). Small airways dysfunction (SAD) might be a sensitive indicator of early chronic respiratory disease. Here, we explored the relationships between exposure to BTEXS and small airways function, and identified the priority pollutants in BTEXS mixtures. Methods: 635 petrochemical workers were recruited. Standard spirometry testing was conducted by physicians. The cumulative exposure dose (CED) of BTEXS for each worker was estimated. The peak expiratory flow (PEF), forced expiratory flow between 25 and 75% of forced vital capacity (FEF25∼75%), and the expiratory flow rate found at 25%, 50%, and 75% of the remaining exhaled vital capacity (MEF25%, MEF50%, and MEF75%) were measured, SAD was also evaluated based on measured parameters. The association between exposure to BTEXS individual or mixtures and small airways function was evaluated using generalized line regression models (GLMs) and quantile g-computation models (qgcomp). Meanwhile, the weights of each homolog in the association were estimated. Results: The median CED of BTEXS are 9.624, 19.306, 24.479, 28.210, and 46.781 mg/m3·years, respectively. A unit increase in ln-transformed styrene CED was associated with a decrease in FEF25∼75% and MEF50% based on GLMs. One quartile increased in BTEXS mixtures (ln-transformed) was significantly associated with a 0.325-standard deviation (SD) [95% confidence interval (CI): -0.464, -0.185] decline in FEF25∼75%, a 0.529-SD (95%CI: -0.691, -0.366) decline in MEF25%, a 0.176-SD (95%CI: -0.335, -0.017) decline in MEF75%, and increase in the risk of abnormal of SAD [risk ratios (95%CI): 1.520 (95%CI: 1.143, 2.020)]. Benzene and styrene were the major chemicals in BTEXS for predicting the overall risk of SAD. Conclusion: Our novel findings demonstrate the significant association between exposure to BTEXS mixture and small airways function decline and the potential roles of key homologs (benzene and styrene) in SAD.

Authors: Qilong Liao, Rui Du, Rui Ma, Xin Liu, Yan Zhang, Zhaorui Zhang, Penglei Ji, Minghui Xiao, Ying Cui, Xiumei Xing, Lili Liu, Shanfeng Dang, Qifei Deng, Yongmei Xiao
; Full Source: Environmental research 2022 May 18;113488. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113488.