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Metabolomics Analysis of Early Exposure to Welding Fumes in Apprentice Welders Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dueck, Meghan, E
Supervisor and department
Quemerais, Bernadette (Medicine)
Lacy, Paige (Medicine)
Examining committee member and department
Kindzierski, Warren (Public Health)
Greiner, Russ (Computing Sciences)
Department of Medicine

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
Welding is defined as the joining of metals with extreme heat, producing fumes, which consist of harmful metals and ultrafine particulates that may lead to detrimental health effects. Currently, air sampling is the primary method to determine welding fume exposure, but is not always feasible. Biomarkers of welding fume exposure are sought for reliable measurement of exposure. Here I propose that urinary metabolomics may be applicable in screening for potential biomarkers for early exposure to welding fumes, and correlated with metal analysis to determine levels of urinary metals. Non-smoking, male apprentice welders (n = 23) and an age/sex-matched control group (n = 20) were recruited from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) for this study. Air exposure samples were collected on days 0, 1, 7, and 50 of the welding program at NAIT, and 12 h fasting urine samples were collected on each occasion. Urinary metabolites and metal concentrations were analyzed using single proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). A pooled urine sample was used as a quality control to determine reliable metabolites. Air samples demonstrated that welding participants were exposed to higher particle and metal concentrations compared to controls. Urinary metal analysis presented conflicting results, with measurements at or near the limit of detection. A total of 151 metabolites were fit to 1H-NMR spectra, with 61 validated as reliable (< 20% relative standard deviation) based on the pooled quality control sample (n = 33). Urinary metabolite, 2-hydroxyisobutyrate and three unknown metabolites, indicate relative promising differences on day 50, that were not observed in earlier sampling days between controls and welders. Metabolomics analysis shows promise in the detection of biomarkers of welding fume exposure, however further research is required.
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