Elevated levels of mercapturic acids of acrolein and crotonaldehyde in the urine of Chinese women in Singapore who regularly cook at home

Stephen S. Hecht, Woon Puay Koh, Renwei Wang, Menglan Chen, Steven G. Carmella, Sharon E. Murphy, Jian Min Yuan

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12 Scopus citations


Lung cancer is unusually common among non-smoking women in Southeastern Asia but the causes of this frequently fatal disease are not well understood. Several epidemiology studies indicate that inhalation of fumes from high temperature Chinese style cooking with a wok may be a cause. Only one previous study investigated uptake of potential toxicants and carcinogens by women who cook with a wok. We enrolled three-hundred twenty-eight non-smoking women from Singapore for this study. Each provided a spot urine sample and answered a questionnaire concerning their cooking habits and other factors. The urine samples were analyzed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for mercapturic acid metabolites of acrolein (3-hydroxypropylmercapturic acid), crotonaldehyde (3-hydroxy-1-methylpropylmercapturic acid), and benzene (S-phenylmercapturic acid), accepted biomarkers of uptake of these toxic and carcinogenic compounds. We observed statistically significant effects of wok cooking frequency on levels of 3-hydroxypropylmercapturic acid and 3-hydroxy-1-methylpropylmercapturic acid, but not S-phenylmercapturic acid. Women who cooked greater than 7 times per week had a geometric mean of 2600 (95% CI, 2189-3090) pmol/mg creatinine 3-hydroxypropylmercapturic acid compared to 1901 (95% CI, 1510-2395) pmol/mg creatinine when cooking less than once per week (P for trend 0.018). The corresponding values for 3-hydroxy-1-methylpropylmercapturic acid were 1167 (95% CI, 1022-1332) and 894 (95% CI, 749-1067) pmol/mg creatinine (P for trend 0.008). We conclude that frequent wok cooking leads to elevated exposure to the toxicants acrolein and crotonaldehyde, but not benzene. Kitchens should be properly ventilated to decrease exposure to potentially toxic and carcinogenic fumes produced during Chinese style wok cooking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0120023
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 25 2015

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© 2015 Hecht et al.


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