The effects of long-term, low-level exposure to monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on worker's insulin resistance

Yong Lim Won, Yong Ko, Kyung Hwa Heo, Kyung Sun Ko, Mi Young Lee, Ki Woong Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: This study was designed to investigate whether long-term, low-level exposure to monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (MAHs) induced insulin resistance. Methods: The subjects were 110 male workers who were occupationally exposed to styrene, toluene, and xylene. One hundred and ten age-matched male workers who had never been occupationally exposed to organic solvents were selected as a control group. Cytokines, which have played a key role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, and oxidative stress indices were measured. Assessment of exposure to MAHs was performed by measuring their ambient levels and their urinary metabolites in exposed workers, and the resulting parameters between the exposed group and non-exposed control groups were compared. Results: There was no significant difference in general characteristics and anthropometric parameters between the two groups; however, total cholesterol, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance levels were significantly higher in the exposed group. Phenylglyoxylic acid levels showed significant association with tumor necrosis factor-α, total oxidative status, and oxidative stress index via multiple linear regression analysis. Further, there was a negative correlation between methylhippuric acid levels and total anti-oxidative capacity, and there was a significant relationship between MAHs exposure and fasting glucose levels, as found by multiple logistic regression analysis (odds ratio = 3.95, 95% confidence interval = 1.074-14.530). Conclusion: This study indicated that MAHs increase fasting glucose level and insulin resistance. Furthermore, these results suggested that absorbing the organic solvent itself and active metabolic intermediates can increase oxidative stress and cytokine levels, resulting in the changes in glucose metabolism and the induction of insulin resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-374
Number of pages10
JournalSafety and Health at Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the intramural research fund of the Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute (OSHRI).


  • Aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Cytokines
  • Insulin resistance
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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