Occupational quartz and particle exposure affect systemic levels of inflammatory markers related to inflammasome activation and cardiovascular disease.Environ Health. 2023 03 13; 22(1):25.EH
The inflammatory responses are central components of diseases associated with particulate matter (PM) exposure, including systemic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). The aim of this study was to determine if exposure to PM, including respirable dust or quartz in the iron foundry environment mediates systemic inflammatory responses, focusing on the NLRP3 inflammasome and novel or established inflammatory markers of CVDs.
The exposure to PM, including respirable dust, metals and quartz were determined in 40 foundry workers at two separate occasions per worker. In addition, blood samples were collected both pre-shift and post-shift and quantified for inflammatory markers. The respirable dust and quartz exposures were correlated to levels of inflammatory markers in blood using Pearson, Kendall τ and mixed model statistics. Analyzed inflammatory markers included: 1) general markers of inflammation, including interleukins, chemokines, acute phase proteins, and white blood cell counts, 2) novel or established inflammatory markers of CVD, such as growth/differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15), CD40 ligand, soluble suppressor of tumorigenesis 2 (sST2), intercellular/vascular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1, VCAM-1), and myeloperoxidase (MPO), and 3) NLRP3 inflammasome-related markers, including interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-18, IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), and caspase-1 activity.
The average respirator adjusted exposure level to respirable dust and quartz for the 40 foundry workers included in the study was 0.65 and 0.020 mg/m3, respectively. Respirable quartz exposure correlated with several NLRP3 inflammasome-related markers, including plasma levels of IL-1β and IL-18, and several caspase-1 activity measures in monocytes, demonstrating a reverse relationship. Respirable dust exposure mainly correlated with non-inflammasome related markers like CXCL8 and sST2.
The finding that NLRP3 inflammasome-related markers correlated with PM and quartz exposure suggest that this potent inflammatory cellular mechanism indeed is affected even at current exposure levels in Swedish iron foundries. The results highlight concerns regarding the safety of current exposure limits to respirable dust and quartz, and encourage continuous efforts to reduce exposure in dust and quartz exposed industries.