Exploring the epigenetic link for occupational woodsmoke exposure induced inflammatory response among wildland firefighters

We are proposing to investigate epigenetic changes (DNA methylation) in association with occupational wood smoke exposure among wildland firefighters. Specifically, we will investigate changes in DNA methylation in the promoter regions of pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin-8 (IL-8) in DBS. IL-8, together with IL-6 has been observed to increase consequent upon occupational wood smoke exposure in wildland firefighters, and would be examined in the already ongoing study. We previously observed increases in pro-inflammatory biomarkers with a statistically significant increase of 70% (p <0.01) in the blood levels of IL-8 in wildland firefighters after acute occupational smoke exposure. We envisage that the results of the proposed study, together with those of the already ongoing one, will contribute towards a better understanding of the health effects of occupational wood smoke exposure among wildland firefighters. The results should help inform how these molecular and physiological responses could be used in longitudinal studies, in conjunction with indicators of cardiovascular health, to determine long term effects of occupational wood smoke exposure, assess the effects of PM related exposures in other situations, and assess the effectiveness of exposure mitigation efforts for wildland firefighters.

OUTCOMES: this funding provided the resources necessary to support Dr. Adetona’s dissertation “Occupational exposure to woodsmoke and associated changes in lung function and biomarkers of oxidative stress among wildland firefighters”. He successfully completed his PhD and is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Health Sciences at the Ohio State University, College of Public Health. In addition to his dissertation, two publications have resulted from this funding:

Adetona AM, Adetona O, Gogal RM Jr, Diaz-Sanchez D, Rathbun SL, Naeher LP. Impact of Work Task-Related Acute Occupational Smoke Exposures on Select Proinflammatory Immune Parameters in Wildland Firefighters. J Occup Environ Med. 2017 Jul;59(7):679-690.

Adetona O, Simpson CD, Li Z, Sjodin A, Calafat AM, Naeher LP. Hydroxylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as biomarkers of exposure to wood smoke in wildland firefighters. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2017 Jan;27(1):78-83.

At OSU Dr. Adetona has built off this research and is collaborating with other OSU researchers in response to the finding: Firefighters are 14 percent more likely to experience cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“CPH researchers Susan Olivo-Marston, PhD, MPH, Olorunfemi Adetona, PhD, and Darryl Hood, PhD, are building off of this study to find ways to improve firefighters’ occupational safety.The team will use biological markers in firefighters to identify which specific contaminants emitted in structural fire smoke are associated with cancer.”