Heavy Exposure of Waste Collectors to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in a Poor Rural Area of Middle China

Jianheng Zheng, Weiwei Zheng, Ying Zhou, Songhui Jiang, Peter Spencer, Weimin Ye, Yuxin Zheng, Gengsheng He, Weidong Qu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Manual collection and open-air incineration of waste materials is a common practice in rural regions of China and beyond. Low-temperature combustion of rubber and plastic waste generates high levels of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). We investigated ten urinary hydroxylated PAH metabolites (OH-PAHs), the oxidative damage biomarker (8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine, 8-OHdG), and four serum biomarkers including gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in 41 waste collectors and 122 control subjects residing in the same or a distant rural village in Henan Province. The level of PAH metabolites in urine (median: 17.24 μg/g Cre) was twice that of controls living in the same area without an occupational history involving waste collection (median: 8.16 μg/g Cre) and thrice that of controls living 30 km away (median: 6.07 μg/g Cre). The concentrations of OH-PAHs were positively associated with urinary 8-OHdG levels (β = 0.283, p < 0.05). Serum GGT and ALT were slightly increased in waste collectors. Urinary 8-OHdG levels were similar in one-year and longer-term workers, suggesting that rubber and plastic waste collection/incineration carries a high PAH exposure risk. These data provide solid baseline information, emphasizing the importance of monitoring the long-term health outcomes of waste collectors and changes in exposure patterns associated with rural development and regulation of waste disposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8866-8875
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 7 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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