Comet assay as a biomarker of genotoxicity to assess occupational exposure to benzene in gas-station attendants and fuel analysts
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Abstract Introduction: gas-station attendants and fuel analysts are exposed to various volatile organic compounds found in gasoline, including benzene, which stands out because of its toxicological significance. Objective: to assess occupational exposure to benzene using the comet assay as a biomarker of genotoxicity in comparison to the urinary trans, trans muconic acid (ttMA) as benzene exposure biomarker. Methods: cross-sectional study using biomarkers of exposure and genotoxicity analyses in a group of workers occupationally exposed to benzene from gasoline compared with a control group. Results: the comet assay results showed that the mean (standard deviation) damage index, in arbitrary units, in the exposed group, 28.4 (10.1), was significantly higher than in the non-exposed group, 18.4 (10.1). The mean value of urinary ttMA was significantly higher in the exposed group, 1.13 (0.45), compared to the non-exposed group, 0.44 (0.33). Both biomarkers showed a linear correlation r = 0.81 (p<0.05) indicating a strong association between the exposure biomarker and the biomarker effect. Conclusion: the results suggest that a greater occupational exposure to benzene is associated to an increased risk of genotoxic damage among individuals exposed to gasoline.