An acute exposure to ozone impairs human olfactory functioning

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Introduction:Ozone is a ubiquitous and irritant gas. We questioned whether an acute exposure to 0.2 ppm ozone impaired olfactory functioning.Methods:Healthy, normosmic subjects were exposed according to a parallel group design either to 0.2 ppm ozone (n = 15) or to sham (n = 13) in an exposure chamber for two hours. Possible irritating effects were assessed by questionnaire (range 0–5). The detection threshold of n-butanol was measured with the Sniffin’ Sticks test before and after exposure. Olfactory thresholds were logarithmized and a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measurements was carried out to test the effects of exposure (ozone vs. sham) and time (before vs. after exposure). Additionally, nasal secretions were taken at a preliminary examination and after exposure to determine interleukins 1ß and 8.Results:No irritating effects to the upper airways were observed. In the ozone group, the median score for cough increased from 0 to 2 at the end of exposure (sham group 0 and 0, respectively, p < 0.001). The ANOVA showed a main effect for ozone exposure (F (1, 26) = 27.6, p = 0.0002), indicating higher olfactory thresholds in the ozone group. Concentrations of interleukins in nasal secretions did not increase following ozone exposure.Conclusions:This study shows a clear impairment of olfactory functioning following an acute exposure to 0.2 ppm ozone.HighlightsAn acute exposure to 0.2 ppm ozone impairs odor detection threshold.The cause is not clear, different modes of action might play at role.Olfactory threshold seems sensitive to photochemical air pollutants’ effects.

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