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.
|Journal||Science of the Total Environment|
|Publication status||Published - 2022 Apr 10|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Fire Fighting Safety & 119 Rescue Technology Research and Development Program funded by the National Fire Agency (“MPSS-Firesafety-2015-80”). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The data were from the FRESH cohort study.
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal