Oxidative stress is believed to play a key role in the development of welding-induced diseases. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effects welding fumes on correlates of oxidative stress in serum of asymptomatic shipyard welders in South Korea. Blood samples were collected from 197 welders and 150 non-exposed white-collar males matched for age, sex and smoking. The serum was assayed for total protein, albumin, total antioxidant capacity, manganese superoxide dismutase, aconitase, glutathione peroxidase (GPx), heat shock protein 70, isoprostane, and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Changes caused by welding was evaluated in three groups based on exposure duration i.e., 1-10, 11-20 and 21 or more years of work. This resulted in a sample size of 142 with exposure duration of 3.91 +/- 2.95 years, 27 with exposure duration of 16.52 +/- 2.91 years, and 28 with welding exposure of 25.39 +/- 2.74 years. In addition, we investigated whether independent and combined effect of smoking and welding influenced the markers of oxidative stress. Welding was associated with increases in serum protein, GPx, aconitase, ROS generation and isoprostane levels compared to controls. The most dramatic change was a 143% increase in serum isoprostane levels with the corresponding 19% increased potential for generating ROS in welders, which was also significant in all exposure groups. Smoking, independently or in combination with welding exposure, generally was not influential in markers of oxidative stress. The results suggest that welding exposure can cause oxidative stress in workers of significant magnitude to be measured by serum biomarkers.
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