Effects of coexposure to noise and mixture of toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and styrene (TEXS) on hearing loss in petrochemical workers of southern China

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2022 Nov 30. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-24414-6. Online ahead of print.


Many harmful factors existing simultaneously with noise are reported to induce hearing impairment, such as organic solvents. However, the existing hearing safety limits and current risk assessment for hearing loss rely on single noise exposure. It is urgent to clarify the combined effect of noise and other harmful factors on hearing loss. Petrochemical workers are always exposed to noise and organic solvents, mainly benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and styrene (BTEXS), while the combined effect of their coexposure on hearing remains unclear. Herein we conducted a cross-sectional survey, measuring pure-tone audiometry of 1496 petrochemical workers in southern China. Participants exposed to BTEXS were 569, 524, 156, 452, and 177 respectively. Individual cumulative noise exposure (CNE) levels and BTEXS exposure were assessed. The average CNE was 93.27 ± 4.92 dB(A)·years, and the concentrations of BTEXS were far below the occupational exposure limits of China. Logistic regression analyses showed that CNE was consistently positively associated with hearing loss (HL) and high-frequency hearing loss (HFHL) but not related to speech-frequency hearing loss (SFHL). Compared with participants in the lowest quartile of CNE, those in the highest quartile showed an OR of 5.229 (95% CI: 3.179, 8.598) for HFHL. Two-pollutant model analysis indicated that TEXS exposure was positively associated with HL (OR 1.679, 95%CI 1.086, 2.597), SFHL (OR 2.440, 95%CI 1.255, 4.744), and HFHL (OR 1.475, 95%CI 1.077, 2.020). However, no interactions were observed between CNE and TEXS coexposure on hearing loss. In our study, covariates including smoking and drinking status, body mass index (BMI), ear protection and personal protective equipment, and use of earphone/headphone were adjusted. In conclusion, coexposure to noise and low-level TEXS could induce more severe damage on hearing function than exposure to each alone, especially SFHL. Therefore, petrochemical workers simultaneously exposed to noise and TEXS, even at low-level, should be included in hearing protection programs.

PMID:36449247 | DOI:10.1007/s11356-022-24414-6

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