Biomarkers of Low-Level Environmental Exposure to Benzene and Oxidative DNA Damage in Primary School Children in Sardinia, Italy

Ilaria Pilia, Marcello Campagna, Gabriele Marcias, Daniele Fabbri, Federico Meloni, Giovanna Spatari, Danilo Cottica, Claudio Cocheo, Elena Grignani, Fabio De-Giorgio, Pierluigi Cocco, Ernesto d'Aloja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The main anthropic sources of exposure to airborne benzene include vehicular traffic, cigarette smoke, and industrial emissions.

METHODS: To detect early genotoxic effects of environmental exposure to benzene, we monitored environmental, personal, and indoor airborne benzene in children living in an urban area and an area near a petrochemical plant. We also used urinary benzene and S-phenylmercapturic acid (S-PMA) as biomarkers of benzene exposure and urinary 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) as a biomarker of early genotoxic effects.

RESULTS: Although always below the European Union limit of 5 μg/m3, airborne benzene levels were more elevated in the indoor, outdoor, and personal samples from the industrial surroundings compared to the urban area (p = 0.026, p = 0.005, and p = 0.001, respectively). Children living in the surroundings of the petrochemical plant had urinary benzene values significantly higher than those from the urban area in both the morning and evening samples (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02, respectively). Results of multiple regression modelling showed that age was a significant predictor of 8-OHdG excretion, independent of the sampling hour. Moreover, at the low exposure level experienced by the children participating in this study, neither personal or indoor airborne benzene level, nor personal monitoring data, affected 8-OHdG excretion.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest the importance of biological monitoring of low-level environmental exposure and its relation to risk of genotoxic effects among children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4644
Number of pages15
JournalInt J Environ Res Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 27 2021


  • Benzene/analysis
  • Biomarkers
  • Child
  • DNA Damage
  • Environmental Exposure/analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Occupational Exposure/analysis
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Schools


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