Biomarkers of endothelial activation and thrombosis in tunnel construction workers exposed to airborne contaminants

  • Dag G. EllingsenEmail author
  • Ingebjørg Seljeflot
  • Yngvar Thomassen
  • Magny Thomassen
  • Berit Bakke
  • Bente Ulvestad
Original Article



The aims were to study biomarkers of systemic inflammation, platelet/endothelial activation and thrombosis in tunnel construction workers (TCW).


Biomarkers and blood fatty acids were measured in blood of 90 TCW and 50 referents before (baseline) and towards the end (follow-up) of a 12 days work period. They had been absent from work for 9 days at baseline. Air samples were collected by personal sampling.


Personal thoracic air samples showed geometric mean (GM) particulate matter and α-quartz concentrations of 604 and 74 µg/m3, respectively. The arithmetic mean (AM) concentration of elemental carbon was 51 µg/m3. The GM (and 95% confidence interval) concentration of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α decreased from 2.2 (2.0–2.4) at baseline to 2.0 pg/mL (1.8–2.2) (p = 0.02) at follow-up among the TCW. Also the platelet activation biomarkers P-selectin and CD40L decreased significantly [25.4 (24.1–26.6) to 24.4 (22.9–26.0)] ng/mL, p = 0.04 and 125 (114–137) to 105 (96–115) pg/mL, p < 0.001, respectively. ICAM-1 concentrations increased from 249 (238–260) to 254 (243–266) ng/mL (p = 0.02). No significant alterations were observed among the referents when assessed by paired sample t test. Unbeneficial alterations in blood fatty acid composition were observed between baseline and follow-up, mainly among referents.


TCW had slightly reduced systemic inflammation and platelet activation although highly exposed to particulate matter, α-quarz and diesel exhaust, which might be due to increased physical activity during the exposure period. The slightly increased ICAM-1 may indicate monocyte recruitment to the lungs. The diet was substantially altered towards a less beneficial fatty acid profile.


P-selectin TNF-α Cardiovascular disease Fatty acids 



We thank medical technologist Vibeke Bratseth for excellent laboratory work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dag G. Ellingsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ingebjørg Seljeflot
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yngvar Thomassen
    • 1
  • Magny Thomassen
    • 4
  • Berit Bakke
    • 1
  • Bente Ulvestad
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.National Institute of Occupational HealthOsloNorway
  2. 2.Center for Clinical Heart Research, Department of CardiologyOslo University HospitalUllevålNorway
  3. 3.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  4. 4.Norwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  5. 5.Department of Occupational MedicineMesta ASLysakerNorway

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