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Urinary Amino-Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Urban Residents: Finding a Biomarker for Residential Exposure to Diesel Traffic

Publication date: 

15 Jul 2021


Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021, 55, 15, 10569–10577


Yang Z, Lin Y, Wang S, Liu X, Cullinan P, Chung KF, Zhang J

Publication type: 



Despite substantial evidence of marked exposure to and ill-health effects from diesel exhaust (DE) emissions among occupational population (e.g., miners, truck drivers, and taxi drivers), it is less understood to what extent non-occupational population was exposed to DE among various combustion sources, largely due to the lack of biomarkers that would indicate specific exposure to DE. We evaluated whether urinary amino-polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (APAHs), such as major metabolites of DE-specific nitrated PAHs, can be used as DE exposure biomarkers in residential settings. We measured five urinary APAHs in 177 urine samples from 98 UK residents, 89 (91%) of them were London residents, and estimated their residential proximity to various traffic indicators (e.g., the road type, road length, traffic flow, and traffic volume). Participants living within 100 m of major roads exhibited increased levels of all five APAHs, among which 2-amino-fluorene (2-AFLU) reached statistical significance (p < 0.05). We estimated that a 10 m increase in the length of nearby major roads (<100 m) was associated with a 4.4% (95% CI of 1.1 to 7.6%) increase in 2-AFLU levels. Levels of 2-AFLU were significantly associated with the traffic flow of nearby buses and heavy-duty vehicles but not motorbikes, taxis, or coaches. We did not observe a significant association between distance to major roads or the sum of the major road length within 100 m with the other four biomarker concentrations. These results suggest the use of urinary 2-AFLU as a biomarker of DE exposure in urban residents.