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Exposure to benzene during pregnancy: a pilot study raises concerns in B.C.

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Peace River Valley, in northeastern British Columbia, has become known in recent years as a place of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas – "fracking," as it's commonly called. What are the health impacts related to living near fracking sites where contaminants, including volatile organic compounds, are released? To try to answer that question, Élyse Caron-Beaudoin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Université de Montréal Public Health Research Institute, studied a group of pregnant women who live in the area. Her results were published this week in Environment International.

High concentrations of muconic acid – a degradation product of benzene (a volatile, toxic and carcinogenic compound) – were detected in the urine of 29 pregnant women who participated in the pilot study. Their median concentration of muconic acid was approximately 3.5 times higher in these women than in the general Canadian population.

In five of the 29 participants, the concentration of muconic acid surpassed the biological exposure index (BEI), a measure developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) to protect the health of people in the workplace. Caron-Beaudoin informed the five women of the results and communicated with their attending physicians. Guidelines of acceptable amounts of muconic acid in urine exist only for the workplace; there are none for the general population.

Continue reading at The University of Montreal.

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