Buccal micronucleus assay in human populations from Sicily (Italy) exposed to petrochemical industry pollutants

  • Concetta FedericoEmail author
  • Valeria Vitale
  • Noemi La Porta
  • Salvatore Saccone
Research Article


Petroleum refinery workers are potentially exposed to a wide range of petrochemical industry pollutants (PIP), such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, cancer-related compounds classified as carcinogenic to humans. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cytogenetic effects of exposure to PIP from two industrialised areas in South/East Sicily (Italy) using a micronucleus (MN) assay and other nuclear anomalies (ONA) on exfoliated buccal cells. Results highlighted not only a statistically significant high level of increase of MN in petroleum refinery (PR) workers, but also in the subjects not working in PR but living in the industrialised area. The ONA analysis showed a highly significant increase in karyolytic cells in exposed vs unexposed subjects, in contrast to a decrease in differentiated cells. These results suggest the presence of a cytotoxic effect in the oral mucosa cells, probably related to the pollutant compounds present in the environment close to the petrochemical industries. Our data confirm that the analysis of exfoliated buccal cells is a useful and simple non-invasive method to evaluate the genotoxic/cytotoxic effects of pollutants in a specific area. To avoid confounding factors due to the different lifestyles of the human subjects, the above assays could be better applied on farm animals, which have a relatively consistent lifestyle and, in some cases, a very low genetic heterogeneity.


Mutagenic tests Buccal micronucleus assay Environmental pollutants Biomonitoring studies Genotoxic risk 



This work was supported by the Research Plan 2017/18 from Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, University of Catania to CF.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the present study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Statement of informed consent

Signed informed consent forms were obtained from all volunteer subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Section of Animal Biology “M. La Greca”University of CataniaCataniaItaly

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