Risk assessment and dose-effect of co-exposure to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and styrene (BTEXS) on pulmonary function: A cross-sectional study


Inhalation is the most frequent route and the lung is the primary damaged organ for human exposure to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and styrene (BTEXS). However, there is limited information on the risk and dose-effect of the BTEXS mixture on pulmonary function, particularly the overall effect. We conducted a cross-sectional study in a petrochemical plant in southern China. Spirometry and cumulative exposure dose (CED) of BTEXS were used to measure lung function and exposure levels for 635 workers in 2020, respectively. Forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) were tested and interpreted as percentages to predicted values [FVC or FEV1% predicted], and FEV1 to FVC ratio [FEV1/FVC (%)]. We found the reduction in FVC% predicted and the risk of lung ventilation dysfunction (LVD) and its two subtypes (mixed and restrictive ventilation dysfunction, MVD, and MVD) were significantly associated with BTEXS individuals. In addition, pulmonary function damage associated with BTEXS was modified by the smoking status and age. Generalized weighted quantile sum (gWQS) regressions were used to estimate the overall dose-effect on lung function damage induced by the BTEXS mixture. Our results show wqs, an index of weighted quartiles for BTEXS, was potentially associated with the reduction in FVC and FEV1% predicted with the coefficients [95% confidence intervals (CI)] between -1.136 (-2.202, -0.070) and -1.230 (-2.265, -0.195). Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CIs for the wqs index of LVD, MVD, and RVD were 1.362 (1.129, 1.594), 1.323 (1.084, 1.562), and 1.394 (1.096, 1.692), respectively. Furthermore, xylene, benzene, and toluene in the BTEXS mixture potentially contribute to the development of lung function impairment. Our novel findings demonstrated the dose-response relationships between pulmonary function impairment and the BTEXS mixture and disclosed the potential key pollutants in the BTEXS mixture.

Authors: Qilong Liao, Yan Zhang, Rui Ma, Zhaorui Zhang, Penglei Ji, Minghui Xiao, Rui Du, Xin Liu, Ying Cui, Xiumei Xing, Lili Liu, Shanfeng Dang, Qifei Deng, Yongmei Xiao
; Full Source: Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987) 2022 Aug 3;119894. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119894.