Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a product of combustion that has become recognized as a significant component of indoor air in some homes. Despite extensive study, it remains unresolved whether exposures to low levels of NO2 affect airway function or reactivity. These studies were designed to assess effects of various levels and patterns of NO2 exposure on pulmonary function and airway reactivity in normal humans. Normal volunteers screened for the absence of airway hyperreactivity were exposed for 3 h in an environmental chamber to purified air or NO2, separated by at least 2 wk, according to three protocols: (1) continuous 0.60 ppm NO2, (2) baseline 0.05 ppm NO2 with intermittent peaks of 2.0 ppm, and (3) continuous 1.5 ppm NO2. Subjects exercised for 10 min of each 30 min at a level sufficient to result in a minute ventilation near 40 L/min. Pulmonary function was measured before, during, and after exposure. Airway reactivity to increasing doses of carbachol was assessed 30 min after exposure. NO2 did not directly alter pulmonary function in any of the exposure protocols. In addition, airway reactivity was not altered by continuous exposure to 0.60 ppm or intermittent peaks of 2.0 ppm NO2. In contrast, continuous exposure to 1.5 ppm NO2 resulted in a greater fall in FVC and FEV1 in response to carbachol than after exposure to air (percent decrease in FVC: 1.5% after air, 3.9% after NO2, p < 0.01). We conclude that for subjects without airway hyperreactivity, exposure to 1.5 ppm NO2 for 3 h increases airway reactivity, whereas repeated 15-min exposures to 2.0 ppm NO2 do not alter airway reactivity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine