Secondary copper smelters, which primarily utilize the waste materials that contain organic impurities, and the zinc recovery plant, which handles mostly fly ash and slag from the iron and steel industry, are major emission sources of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) in Taiwan. In this study, we compared the levels of erythrocyte glutathione (GSH), erythrocyte superoxide dismutase (SOD) and plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) in workers at a secondary copper smelting plant and a zinc recovery plant who may have been exposed to PCDD/Fs. Though the PCDD/F levels were higher in workers of zinc recovery plant than those of secondary copper smelting plant, no significant difference was found for serum PCDD/F levels between the two kinds of plants. We observed a significant difference in plasma MDA levels between workers at the zinc recovery plant (2.54 μM) and those at the copper smelting plant (1.79 μM). There was and a significant positive correlation between plasma MDA levels and the PCDD/Fs levels. In addition, we observed that the MDA levels were not affected by smoking and exercise status. Therefore, the data suggest that the MDA levels of the metal recovery workers are influenced by their PCDD/F exposure. The erythrocyte SOD activity in workers from the zinc recovery plant was marginally higher than that from the secondary copper plant (196 vs. 146 units/ml, p < 0.06). In both plants, large variations in the MDA and SOD levels were found, especially in the high-PCDD/Fs-exposure group, which may be attributed, at least partially, to the differences in smoking status and the number of cigarettes smoked. Overall, our results indicate a higher oxidative stress in workers of the zinc recovery plant than in workers of the secondary copper smelting plant in Taiwan.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal