Liver fibrosis associated with potential vinyl chloride and ethylene dichloride exposure from the petrochemical industry


Background: The understanding of the relationship between exposure to carcinogenic vinyl chloride (VCM) and ethylene dichloride (EDC) and liver fibrosis is limited.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the associations between the urinary metabolite levels of VCM and EDC and the risk of liver fibrosis in residents living near a petrochemical complex.

Methods: Our study comprised 447 adult residents of two townships with questionnaire survey and health examination near the largest petrochemical complex in central Taiwan. The urinary levels of thiodiglycolic acid (TdGA), the metabolite of VCM and EDC, were detected in study subjects. We utilized fibrosis-4 (FIB-4) as the noninvasive liver fibrosis index. Adjusted linear model was applied to evaluate the associations between the distance from the complex and the urinary TdGA levels. Adjusted logistic regression model was applied to evaluate the associations between the urinary TdGA levels and the risk of liver fibrosis.

Results: The study subjects living in the closer township had significant higher urinary TdGA levels than those living in the more distant township (269.6 ± 200.7 vs. 199.2 ± 164.7 μg/g creatinine) (p < 0.001). It showed that urinary TdGA levels were decreased 0.53-fold when the distances from the complex were increased 1-fold after adjusting for confounding factors. It demonstrated that the study subjects with the highest TdGA levels (>343.3 μg/g creatinine) had a higher risk of FIB-4>1.29 (OR = 2.09; 95% CI: 1.17, 3.78), and those with higher TdGA levels (232.7 to 343.3 μg/g creatinine) had a marginally higher risk of FIB-4>1.29 (OR = 1.65; 95% CI: 0.94, 2.90).

Conclusion: The residents living closer to the VCM/PVC plant in the petrochemical complex had higher urinary TdGA levels, which were associated with an increased risk of fibrosis. This confirmed that the EDC and VCM potentially emitted from the petrochemical industry may have an impact on the liver health of nearby residents.

Authors: Tzu-Hsuen Yuan, Jun-Lin Chen, Ruei-Hao SHie, Yen-Po Yeh, Yi-Hsuan Chen, Chang-Chuan Chan
; Full Source: The Science of the Total Environment. 2020 Jun 3;739:139920. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139920. Online ahead of print.