Underground salt and potash workers exposed to nitrogen oxides and diesel exhaust: assessment of specific effect biomarkers


Purpose: Occupational exposure limits (OEL) for nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2) and diesel exhaust (EC-DPM) were reassessed by the German authorities in 2016/2017. We performed a clinical cross-sectional study among salt and potash underground workers exposed to these substances at relatively high levels to examine possible indicators of acute effects on workers’ health. Methods: We measured post- versus pre-shift differences in cardiovascular, inflammatory, immune, and respiratory effect biomarkers and assessed their associations with personal exposures measured during the same shift. We also compared post- versus pre-shift differences in biomarker levels between exposure groups defined based on work site and job type. Results: None of the above-ground workers exceeded the OEL for NO2 and only 5% exceeded the OEL for EC-DPM exposure. Among underground workers, 33% of miners and 7% underground maintenance workers exceeded the OEL for NO2; the OEL for EC-DPM was exceeded by 56% of miners and 17% of maintenance workers. Some effect biomarkers (thrombocytes, neutrophils, MPO, TNF-α, IgE, FeNO) showed statistically significant differences between pre- versus post-shift measurements; however, there were no consistent associations between pre- and post-shift differences and exposure group or personal exposure measurements during the shift. Conclusions: We did not find evidence of associations between workplace exposure to NO, NO2 or EC-DPM and clinically relevant indicators of acute cardiovascular, inflammatory and immune, or respiratory effects among salt and potash underground workers in Germany.

Authors: Lisa Gamrad-Streubel, Lisa-Marie Haase, Katharina K Rudolph, Katrin Rühle, Annette M Bachand, Lori Crawford, Kenneth A Mundt, Jürgen Bünger, Dirk Pallapies, Dirk Taeger, Swaantje Casjens, Anja Molkenthin, Savo Neumann, Jörg Giesen, Volker Neumann, Thomas Brüning, Thomas Birk
; Full Source: International archives of occupational and environmental health 2022 May 18. doi: 10.1007/s00420-022-01876-2.