Vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) is a suspected human carcinogen. Its metabolite, chloroethylene epoxide, is able to alkylate the DNA molecule and to produce single strand breakage (SSB). A total of 244 workers from 4 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) manufacturing factories were recruited to assess the SSB of their peripheral lymphocyte DNA. The method of alkaline unwinding and hydroxyapatite chromatography was used to detect and calculate frequencies of SSB. In addition, hepatitis B and C markers and the liver function of the workers were also examined. The worker's cumulative exposures to VCM were retrospectively constructed from the current monitoring data and each worker's job history. Multiple linear regression models were constructed to predict the worker's level of SSB and liver functions based on various exposure indices and variables, such as age, sex, smoking, drinking, and hepatitis markers. The results showed that current smoking and drinking status, and the presence of VCM exposures on the previous day were 3 major determinants of the level of SSB. Among the liver function tests, only γ-glutamyi transpeptidase (GGT) was associated with current VCM exposures. In contrast, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were mainly affected by the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) or anti-hepatitis C vins (anti-HCV). We conclude that GGT should be considered to be included in the regular health screening of VCM workers, and that the SSB method may not be suitable for long-term monitoring of cumulative exposure because of the quick DNA repair mechanism in humans.
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