Welding fumes comprise a wide range of nonmetals and metals with varying toxic effects. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated welding-fume exposure is associated with various disease, including pulmonary disease, lung inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. An improved understanding of possible adverse health effects of exposure to welding fumes, as well as their underlying mechanisms, is important for risk assessment and the development of prevention strategies that will affect a large population of workers.
Metabolomics has been increasingly recognized as a powerful functional tool to understand complex biological machinery and to develop new biomarkers for environmental biomonitoring that can help prevent and treat environmental-associated diseases. Metabolomics is based on comprehensive analysis of the endogenous low-molecular-weight biomolecules (typically < 1000 Da) within a cell, tissue, or biofluid (e.g., plasma or urine) that are associated with different human metabolic processes. Metabolomics applications are expanding in the field of occupational health as a fast and reproducible approach that directly reflects biological events related to exposure. Therefore, monitoring disturbances of the metabolome is now more sensitive, easily accessible, less expensive, and more accurate.
Despite the availability of such applications, limited research has focused on systemic metabolomics alterations of welding fume exposure. Using the well-established occupational cohort of boilermaker construction workers, the paper's authors interrogated biochemical profiles manifested in human plasma samples originating from boilermakers with occupational exposure to metal fumes, with the aim of characterizing metabolic migration from pre-exposure to post-exposure. They identified metabolite changes during welding-fume exposure and further explored their potential biological functions in boilermakers.
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