Cefic-lri Programme | European Chemical Industry Council

LRI AWARD 2010: In Quest of new fingerprints of exposure to VOC from consumer products

Principal Investigator

Dr Juana Maria Delgado-Saborit

Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management, University of Birmingham

Edgbaston, Birmingham

B15 2TT

Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5427

Email : j.m.delgadosaborit@bham.ac.uk


Prof Roy Harrison, Prof Mark Viant, Massimiliano Mascelloni, Barbara Macias, University of Birmingham

R.M.Harrison@bham.ac.uk; MXM044@bham.ac.uk; BAM066@bham.ac.uk;

Prof Silvia Fustinoni, Dipartimento di Medicina del Lavoro Clinica del Lavoro “L.Devoto” Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico



Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are ubiquitous in indoor air and their origin is a plethora of various emission sources including building related materials, furniture, equipment and consumer and household related products. Currently, there is international recognition of the contribution of indoor air to personal exposures and its potential health risks associated.

A major goal of environmental epidemiology is to establish quantitative relationships between exposures to VOCs and the associated risks of disease. Biological monitoring has been increasingly viewed as a desirable alternative to air sampling for characterising environmental exposures. The use of urinary biomarkers for assessing exposure to VOCs has been widely used in occupational exposures. However, to date there are few studies where this approach has been used to characterise non-occupational exposures to VOCs, using benzene metabolites as biomarkers. However, the metabolism of benzene is complex and some of the metabolites have other potential sources apart from benzene, which reduces their specificity. Therefore, the traditional metabolites of benzene are inadequate for biomonitoring benzene at low-level exposures. Other benzene metabolites include the products of the metabolism to benzene oxide, later to phenol, and this to benzoquinones. Recent developments in analytical techniques have opened up the possibility of measuring quinones in urine, as well as un-metabolised benzene in urine.

Whilst benzoquinones and un-metabolised benzene are potential biomarkers to determine biological exposure to VOC, omics technologies are useful tools to assess the biological effect of exposures to VOCs. Since detoxification of benzene involves metabolism transformations; and whilst some benzene metabolites accumulate in the bone marrow and damage the stems cells and progenitor cells; many metabolites are ultimately excreted in urine. Therefore, using a metabolomics approach can be helpful to identify new metabolite pattern profiles useful to identify biological effects in low-level exposure scenarios.

The recent adoption of human biomonitoring in the Environmental Action Plan 2004-2010 has motivated the research of new biomarkers suitable to biomonitor exposures and effects of chemicals for human health studies. This proposal aims to find suitable biomarkers to monitor the exposure and effects to low-level of VOCs, especially benzene as a carcinogenic marker of the VOC mixture, using novel analytical methodologies and cutting-edge techniques, i.e. metabolomics and  high sensitive head space GCMS. New information on the exposure-dose evolution and dose-response relationship from VOCs widely used in consumer and building products will help policy makers and industrial producers in the formulation of these products.

Related Publications

Peer-Reviewed articles:

Study of Gaseous Benzene Effects Upon A549 Lung Epithelial Cells Using a Novel Exposure System by Massimiliano Mascelloni, Juana Maria Delgado-Saborit, Nikolas J. Hodges and Roy M. Harrison. Currently under review in Toxicology Letters

Relevance of Oxidative Stress Related to Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds by Massimiliano Mascelloni, Marcus S. Cooke, Silvia Fustinoni, Rosa Mercadante, Elisa Polledri, Luca Olgiati, Laura Campo, Roy Harrison and Juana Maria Delgado-Saborit. Manuscript in preparation.

Oral Presentations:

In Quest of New Fingerprints of Exposure to VOCs from Consumer Products, by Delgado-Saborit JM, Mascelloni M, Macias B, Viant M & Harrison RM, presented at the 13th Cefic-LRI Annual Workshop 2011.

In Quest of New Fingerprints of Exposure to VOCs from Consumer Products, by Delgado-Saborit JM, Mascelloni M, Macias B, Viant M & Harrison RM, presented at the EUROTOX conference, Stockholm 2012

Poster Presentations:

In Quest of New Fingerprints of Exposure to VOCs from Consumer Products, by Delgado-Saborit JM, Mascelloni M, Macias B, Viant M & Harrison RM, presented at the 2011 Annual UK Review meeting on outdoor and indoor air pollution Research, Cranfield, 2011

Relationship between exposure to low level VOCs and oxidative stress, by Massimiliano Mascelloni, Marcus Cooke, Silvia Fustinoni, Roy Harrison, Juana Maria Delgado-Saborit, presented at the Ninth International Symposium on Biological Monitoring, Manchester, 2013.

Personal, home and workplace exposure to PM2.5, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, quinones, black carbon and volatile organic compounds in the general population by J.M. Delgado-Saborit, B.A. Macias-Hernandez, M. Mascelloni, J. Gil-Molto, N. Galindo-Corral, M. Varea and R.M. Harrison1, presented at the European Aerosol Conference 2015, Milan, 2015

PhD thesis:

Biomonitoring of Exposure to Air Pollutants: Early Biomarkers of Exposure and Effects by Massimiliano Mascelloni. Dissertation Submitted to the University of Birmingham in partial fulfilment for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Viva voce examination to be held on 30th April 2015.

Timeline: September 2010 > September 2011

LRI funding: € 100.000

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