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Chromosomal aberrations in workers professionally exposed to lead a


Gh. Deknudt , Y. Manuel & G. B. Gerber



Mammalian Genetics Laboratory, Department of Radiobiology , S.C.K.‐C.E.N. , Mol, Belgium , B‐2400 b

Centre d'lmmunologie de Marseille‐Luminy , Marseille Cédex 2, France c

Department of Radiobiology and Euratom , S.C.K.‐C.E.N. , Mol, Belgium Published online: 20 Oct 2009.

To cite this article: Gh. Deknudt , Y. Manuel & G. B. Gerber (1977) Chromosomal aberrations in workers professionally exposed to lead, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health: Current Issues, 3:5-6, 885-891, DOI: 10.1080/15287397709529622 To link to this article:

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CHROMOSOMAL ABERRATIONS IN WORKERS PROFESSIONALLY EXPOSED TO LEAD Gh. Deknudt Mammalian Genetics Laboratory, Department of Radiobiology, S.C.K.-C.E.N., Mol, Belgium

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Y. Manuel Centre d'lmmunologie de Marseille-Luminy, Marseille Cédex 2, France G. B. Gerber Department of Radiobiology and Euratom, S.C.K.-C.E.N., Mol, Belgium

Chromosomes in cultured lymphocytes from the following groups were analyzed: 16 workers from a smelting plant for storage batteries in Lyon, France; 7 workers from a factory where tin dishes are made at Nerem, Belgium; and 20 controls. The choice of the workers was made on the basis of either elevated blood lead (Lyon) or elevated urinary δ-aminolevulinic acid (Nerem). An increased number of severe aberrationsrings and dicentrics—were detected in the persons from Lyon, whereas no such aberrations but an increased number of fragments were seen in those from Nerem.

INTRODUCTION It is still an open question whether lead can cause severe chromosome aberrations in lymphocytes of people exposed occupationally to lead. Whereas Bauchinger and Schmid (1970), Bauchinger et al. (1972), O'Riordan and Evans (1974), Schmid et al. (1972), and Sperling et al. (1970) could not detect any severe chromosome aberration in workers from different lead industries, Bauchinger et al. (1976), Deknudt et al. (1973), Deknudt and Leonard (1975), Forni and Secchi (1972), Forni et al. (1976), and Schwanitz et al. (1970a, 1970b, 1975) observed .a significant increase in such aberrations. In this paper we present supplementary data from workers exposed to lead and discuss the possible reasons for the divergent observations reported in the different investigations. Supported by contract 140-76-12 ENVB of the E.C. Environmental Research Program. Publication No. 1487 of the Euratom Biology Division. Requests for reprints should be sent to Gh. Deknudt, Department of Radiobiology, S.C.K.-CE.N., B-2400 Mol, Belgium.

885 Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 3:885-891,1977 Copyright © 1977 by Hemisphere Publishing Corporation



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MATERIAL AND METHODS The study was carried out on 16 workers from a plant at Lyon, France, where old lead batteries were melted down, on 7 workers from a factory at Nerem, Belgium, where tin dishes are made, and on 20 control persons of comparable age (mean, 32 yr). To exclude other possible causes of chromosome aberrations, all persons were left out who had been exposed to ionizing radiation other than for routine diagnostic purposes or who had been working in chemical industries. The workers at Lyon were selected on the basis of an increased blood lead level (>40 jug/100 ml) (Table 1). Unfortunately, because of local conditions, it was impossible to use the same criterion for the workers at Nerem, where only data on urinary 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and coproporphyrin were available. Therefore, workers were included in the study when they had either elevated ALA or elevated coproporphyrin excretion. The cultures—two samples of 0.5 ml from each worker—were initiated within 18 hr after blood withdrawal and were carried out for 48 hr, colcemid (1 ml, Difco) being added at 45.5 hr. The culture medium was TABLE 1. Groups Studied

Plant Lyon


No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Blood lead («!%)

Urinary 8-aminolevulinic acid (mg %)

Age (yr)

Length of exposure (months)

No. of severe aberrations per 200 cells

4.50 4.15 2.75 1.25 1.15 0.60 0.50

52 53 27 50 58 22 50 22 36 51 29 28 47 27 44 27 28 18 19 18 19 21 21

288 192 72 348 144 21 99 20 30 264 21 17 15 15 204 18 30 24 24 6 49 38 34

5 — 2 _ 5 _ 1 1 — _ 2 _ — _ 2 1 — — _ — — — -

95.16 93.00 82.33 81.50 80.83 79.16 78.50 78.16 75.83 71.50 71.33 65.66 62.33 62.00 47.00 44.50



Ham's F-10 (Ham, 1963), to which bovine serum phytohemagglutinin, penicillin, and streptomycin had been added. After hypotonic treatment in 0.075 M KCI, the cells were fixed in methanol-acetic acid (3:1), spread on clean slides, and stained with lactoorcein. Two hundred metaphases were examined from each person and numerical as well as structural aberrations were noted. Blood lead was determined by atomic absorption spectrometry using a Perkin-Elmer model equipped with deuterium lamp correction.

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RESULTS The detailed chromosome analysis of the workers as well as the summarized data for the 20 controls is presented in Table 2. The results of the significance tests, using the chi-square method, are shown in Table 3. The number of aneuploid cells is significantly diminished whereas the number of cells with structural abnormalities is significantly increased in the group from Nerem compared with that from Lyon or the controls. More chromatid gaps are also noted in the group from Nerem, but this difference is significant only when they are compared with the group from Lyon. Chromosome gaps are significantly decreased in the group from Lyon, and chromosome fragments are increased in the group from Nerem when compared with controls or the other group. Severe chromosome aberrations, dicentrics or rings, were found only in the Lyon group, and these occurred at random. All workers at Lyon had increased blood lead levels, some of them dangerous ones (Table 1). There is no significant correlation, however, between the number of severe aberrations (or of any other aberration) and blood lead, age, or length of exposure in this group. The degree of exposure of the Nerem group is more difficult to judge. On the basis of the criteria given by Davies (1972), one would classify three of the workers in the dangerous range and the rest except one in the acceptable one. This would indicate toxicities comparable to those of the Lyon group. Yet, even assuming a much steeper increase of urinary ALA with blood lead (Zielhuis, 1971), at least three of the workers would have had exposures comparable to those of the Lyon group. The probability of a significant difference between the Lyon and Nerem groups with respect to severe aberrations would thus be at least

Chromosomal aberrations in workers professionally exposed to lead.

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