The effect of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on changes in the brain structure of firefighters: An analysis using data from the Firefighters Research on Enhancement of Safety & Health study

Yun Tae Kim, Woojin Kim, Mun joo Bae, Jee Eun Choi, Mi Ji Kim, Sung Soo Oh, Ki Soo Park, Sungha Park, Seung Koo Lee, Sang Baek Koh, Changsoo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed during incomplete combustion of organic matter, and firefighters are highly exposed to these toxic compounds at fire sites. Exposure to PAHs can cause cognitive decline and neurodegeneration; however, to date, few studies have examined the potential effects of PAH exposure on structural changes in the brain. We aimed to investigate the association between the four types of PAH metabolites and the corresponding changes in neuroimaging markers based on smoking status and hypertension in male firefighters. For this, we utilized the 2-year follow-up data of 301 Korean male firefighters aged over 40 years. The concentrations of four PAH metabolites in urine were measured. Subcortical volume and cortical thickness were estimated using 3 T magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. A generalized linear model was used to investigate the effects of PAHs on changes in the subcortical volume and cortical thickness. We found an association between 1-hydroxyphenathrene (1-OHPHE) and 2-hydroxyfluorene (2-OHF) and changes in several brain regions in all the study participants. Individuals who had never smoked showed significantly thinner frontal (p < 0.001), parietal (p < 0.001), temporal (p < 0.001), and cingulate lobes (p < 0.001) with 1% increase each in the urinary concentration of 1-OHPHE. Hypertension interacted with the concentration of 1-OHPHE to reduce the volume of gray matter and cause cortical thinning in the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes. Exposure to PAHs may reduce cortical thickness and subcortical volume, which are definitive markers of neurodegeneration. Notably, hypertension can accelerate the degenerative effects of PAHs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151655
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume816
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr 10

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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