Occupational hazard in Chinese workers and their families: Environmental epigenetics of chronic metal exposure

Occupational Health Hazards

This project investigates epigenetic alterations in Chinese factory workers in electroplating plants. The higher-than-average blood levels of metals in these workers may affect their disease risk and result in disrupted epigenetic states in their children.

Project Title

Occupational Hazard in Chinese Workers and Their Families: Environmental Epigenetics of Chronic Metal Exposure

Understanding epigenetic responses to toxicant exposure will help trace human disease triggers to environmental conditions that can be readily addressed and mitigated.

Project Summary

Exposure to environmental toxicants and heavy metals is a global health problem. It is especially urgent in China, where individuals working in electroplating plants display blood chromium concentrations that can be 20 times greater than those levels observed in the general population. In electroplating factories and welding environments, occupational workers are not only exposed to lead but also to chromium, cadmium, and other metals. While these mixtures pose a significant health hazard to the workers, little is known about whether exposed individuals can transmit disrupted epigenetic states to their children.

This project examines the biological pathways that may be disrupted in individuals who are directly exposed to heavy metals, and that may also contribute to a transmission of exposure risk to progeny. By discovering these epigenetic attributes, it may be possible to mediate the intergenerational transmission of toxic heavy metal stress and develop widely applicable biomarkers for exposed populations around the world.

Partner Affiliation in China

Institute of Occupational Disease, Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences, Hangzhou

See also: 2016

Principal Investigator

  • B Lemos

    Bernardo Lemos

    Assistant Professor of Environmental Epigenetics,
    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health