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Your Environment. Your Health.

Publication Detail

Title: Comparative biological potency of acidic sulfate aerosols: implications for the interpretation of laboratory and field studies.

Authors: Schlesinger, R B; Chen, L C

Published In Environ Res, (1994 Apr)

Abstract: Biological responses to inhaled acid sulfates result from the deposition of hydrogen ion (H+) on airway surfaces. Thus, effects from sulfuric acid and ammonium bisulfate, the two major ambient species, have been assumed to be the same for a given H+ concentration within the exposure atmosphere, assuming similar respiratory tract deposition patterns. However, recent inhalation studies have indicated that sulfuric acid is disproportionately potent compared to ammonium bisulfate when the H+ content of the exposure atmosphere is considered, suggesting that some factors following inhalation affect the amount of H+ contacting airway surfaces. This study assessed a mechanism potentially underlying this phenomenon, namely, the extent of neutralization by respiratory tract ammonia. This was evaluated using a physical model system designed to mimic transit of these aerosols in the upper respiratory tract of the animal model used in this laboratory, the rabbit. The results suggest that for equal exposure quantities of H+, more acid would be deposited when sulfuric acid is inhaled than when ammonium bisulfate is inhaled. Furthermore, results from a series of in vitro exposures of tracheal epithelial cells to sulfuric acid and ammonium bisulfate aerosols indicated that the biological response is a function of the total mass (ionic) concentration of H+ deliverable to the cells or the total extractable H+ per particle. The results of this study have possible implications for ambient monitoring of particulate-associated strong acidity, suggesting that it may be necessary to specilate such measures into the relative amounts of H+ as sulfuric acid or ammonium bisulfate in order to most accurately relate atmospheric acid levels to observed health effects. In addition, since much of the ambient particulate-associated H+ exists as sulfuric acid/ammonium bisulfate mixtures rather than pure compounds, H(+)-associated health effects from controlled exposure studies of sulfuric acid may not be transferable to ambient population situations on a 1:1 basis. Since any such errors in exposure assessment will necessarily bias downward the strength of H(+)-related health effects associations found via epidemiological studies, failure to address the specification of H+ may cause such studies to underestimate the human health effects of strong acids.

PubMed ID: 8162886 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Aerosols; Ammonium Sulfate/pharmacokinetics*; Ammonium Sulfate/pharmacology; Animals; Environmental Exposure; Epithelium/drug effects; Hydrogen-Ion Concentration; Models, Biological; Particle Size; Rabbits; Respiratory System/metabolism*; Sulfuric Acids/pharmacokinetics*; Sulfuric Acids/pharmacology; Trachea/drug effects

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