benzene, heavy metals, genotoxicity, workplace, exposure
Genotoxicological investigations serve as tools to detect the damages caused by the environmental and occupational mutagens and carcinogens acquired by the somatic cells. These damages are well demonstrated in the course of genotoxicological monitoring by chromosomal mutation, sister chromatid exchange (SCE), and the blastic transformation activity of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL), among workers who were exposed to benzene and heavy metals. Workers exposed to different concentration of benzene were monitored for over 20 years. These studies showed an increase of the chromosomal aberrations in workers exposed to benzene above the 1 ppm. At the same time, parallel to the lowering of benzene levels, a decrease in the cytogenetic parameters to the level of the industrial control was observed, during the active preventional period. The main point of intervention was the improvement of the work-sites including lowering the benzene exposure and convincing the workers to change their life styles avoiding confounding factors (e.g. drugs, alcohol, medication and smoking). This monitoring system was also used to determine the protective effects of some natural products with known antioxidant capacity against the in vivo genotoxic effects of these pollutants. In the case of heavy metal (precious metals, chromium, cadmium and nickel) exposed workers, after a chemoprevention treatment with the nutritional supplement Humetta® containing various antioxidants and chelating agents, the results showed a decrease in genotoxic effects, together with improved health status based on the clinical laboratory data.