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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Taiwan: Exposure to Acrylonitrile Increases the Risk of Oxidation Stress in Humans

Acrylonitrile is a colorless volatile liquid mostly present in tobacco smoke. There was no previous research to investigate the association between acrylonitrile exposure and cardiovascular disease risk factor in humans. Dr. Chien-Yu Lin, a deputy superintendent at the Taipei En Chu Kong Hospital, his advisor Dr. Ta-Chen Su, a professor and director of the department of environmental and occupational medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, and their research team used a cohort composed of adolescents and young adults in Taiwan to answer the question. Their study has been published in Environmental Pollution (2018 August; 239: 493-498).

Acrylonitrile exposure has been shown to increase oxidative stress in animal studies. An increase in oxidative stress is thought to be involved a vital role in cardiovascular disease. It is rational to ask if acrylonitrile exposure is associated with increased oxidative stress and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in humans. To test this hypothesis, a cross-sectional study was designed in a cohort composed of 853 study subjects, age range from adolescents to young adults in Taiwan. In this study, we applied urinary N-acetyl-s-(2-cyanoethyl)-l-cysteine (CEMA) as a biomarker of acrylonitrile exposure and urinary 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) as a biomarker of oxidative stress.

The geometric mean (SD) of CEMA and 8-OHdG concentrations were 4.67 (8.61) µg/L and 2.97 (2.14) µg/L, respectively. 10% elevated in CEMA (µg/L) was positively correlated with change of 8-OHdG levels (µg/L) (β = 0.325, SE = 0.105, P = 0.002) in multiple linear regression analyses. The urinary CEMA was not related to other CVD risk factors. In subpopulation analyses, the association between CEMA and 8-OHdG was evident in both genders, those of adolescents, and with homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance score ≥0.89, and environmental tobacco smokers.

In conclusion, this study found significant associations between urine CEMA, and 8-OHdG in a Taiwanese cohort consisting of adolescents and young adults. These associations appear to be significant after we enrolled CVD risk factors as covariates.


This study provides the first time, the real evidence of measuring urinary concentration of volatile organic chemicals to link the possible environmental exposures, in terms of metabolites of acrylonitrile in this study, and risk of cardiovascular health. This study revealed low-level acrylonitrile exposure may increase oxidative stress. Future prospective studies on exposure to acrylonitrile and risk of oxidative stress are warranted.


Lin, C.-Y., Lee, H.-L., Sung, F.-C., & Su, T.-C. (2018). Investigating the association between urinary levels of acrylonitrile metabolite N-acetyl-S-(2-cyanoethyl)-L-cysteine and the oxidative stress product 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine in adolescents and young adults. Environmental Pollution, 239, 493-498. doi: