Background: Biomonitoring provides a useful tool to estimate the genetic risk from exposure to genotoxic agents. The aim of this study was to assess the potential cytogenetic damage associated with occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium by using micronuclei (MN) as a biomarker.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study and all participants were males. Both the exposed and control individuals were selected from Coimbatore, Southern India. Exfoliated buccal cells from 44 chrome plating workers and 40 age and sex matched control subjects were examined for MN frequency and nuclear abnormalities (NA) other than micronuclei, such as binucleates, broken eggs, karyorrhexis, karyolysis and pyknosis.
Results: Results showed statistically significant difference between chrome plating workers and control groups. MN and NA frequencies in chrome plating workers were significantly higher than those in control groups (p < 0.05) and also significantly related to smoking habit (P < 0.05). A significant difference in NA was observed in workers exposed to chromium for longer duration. In addition to this, a higher degree of NA was observed among smokers.
Conclusion: MN and other NA reflect genetic changes, events associated with carcinogenesis. Therefore the results of this study indicate that chrome plating workers are under risk of significant cytogenetic damage. Therefore, there is a need to educate those who work with heavy metals about the potential hazard of occupational exposure and the importance of using protective measures.
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