Sulfuric acid aerosol exposure in humans assessed by bronchoalveolar lavage

M. W. Frampton, K. Z. Voter, P. E. Morrow, N. J. Roberts, D. J. Culp, C. Cox, M. J. Utell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epidemiologic and experimental evidence suggests that exposure to acidic aerosols may affect human health. Brief exposures to acidic aerosols after mucociliary clearance and increase airway responsiveness, but effects on host defense mechanisms at the alveolar level have not been studied in humans. Twelve healthy, nonsmoking volunteers between 20 and 39 yr of age were exposed for 2 h to aerosols of approximately 1,000 μg/m3 sulfuric acid (H2SO4) or sodium chloride (NaCl [control]), with intermittent exercise, in a randomized, double-blind fashion. Each subject received both exposures, separated by at least 2 wk. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed 18 h after exposure in order to detect evidence of an inflammatory response, changes in alveolar cell subpopulations, or changes in alveolar macrophage (AM) function, which is important in host defense. When compared with NaCl, exposure to H2SO4 did not increase polymorphonuclear leukocytes in BAL fluid. The percentage of T lymphocytes decreased in association with H2SO4 exposure, but the difference was not statistically significant (14.9% after NaCl, 11.5% after H2SO4; p = 0.14). Antibody-mediated cytotoxicity of AM increased in association with H2SO4 exposure (percent lysis 19.1 after NaCl, 23.6 after H2SO4; p = 0.16). No significant change was seen in release of superoxide anion or inactivation of influenza virus in vitro. Brief exposures to H2SO4 aerosol at 1,000 μg/m3 do not cause an influx of inflammatory cells into the alveolar space, and no evidence was found for alteration in antimicrobial defense 18 h after exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-632
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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