The quarrying is considered a precarious occupation with high toxicity, is an informal economic activity that employs low technology, limited protection, and poses a risk to workers and their families. In quarrying, silica dust is generated and there is also occupational exposure to significant mixtures of pneumotoxic pollutants, including mineral dust (crystalline silica, carbon or cement, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), solvents, and others, which are aggravated by the lack of use of protective equipment, causing irreversible damage to the worker’s respiratory health. Thus, the objective of this work focused on the evaluation of the respiratory health of artisan stonemasons in San Luis Potosí, Mexico through the study of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) (pH, pro-inflammatory cytokines) as well as the study of the exposure to pollutants present in the work area (PAHs, toluene, and 2.5 µm particulate matter) through biomarkers of exposure (hippuric acid and hydroxylated metabolites of PAHs). The results show the presence of crystalline SiO2 in 100% of the samples analyzed; the PM2.5 concentrations were 5 to 10 times the permitted levels. Regarding exposure to PAHs, all the stonemasons presented urine concentrations of at least 5 of the OH-PAHs evaluated; 9-OH-FLU occurred at higher concentrations of 171.2 (122.7-279.4) µg L-1; hippuric acid, which was present in 100% of the workers evaluated in concentrations of 283.4 (27.72-1119) mg L-1, 100% of which were above the values established for occupational scenarios. The pH values obtained for the EBC samples were presented at an average of 7.07 (6.33-7.66). Pro-inflammatory cytokines were present in 86.1% of the study population. The cytokine that was found in higher concentrations was IL-2, with a mean of 178.01 pg mL-1 and 3124.01 pg mL-1 for the pH < 7 and pH > 7 groups, respectively. Some correlations between the cytokines and the exposure biomarkers were presented. Stonemasons are highly exposed to pneumotoxic pollutants and markers of inflammation at the pulmonary level; in addition, a high risk of developing silicosis. Quarrying should be addressed as a carcinogenic activity, which would imply the design of monitoring and control strategies for these pollutants that our country currently lacks, particularly in precarious occupations. It is necessary to develop strategies to protect the health of precarious workers.
Authors: Lorena Díaz de León-Martínez, José Moisés Grimaldo-Galeana, Luz Eugenia Alcántara-Quintana, Fernando Díaz-Barriga, Francisco Javier Pérez-Vázquez, Rogelio Flores-Ramírez
; Full Source: Environmental science and pollution research international 2022 Apr 9. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-20101-8.