Sub-chronic toxicity of low concentrations of industrial volatile organic pollutantsin vitro

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Organic solvents form an important class of pollutants in the ambient air and have been associated with neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity in humans. Here we investigated the biological effects of sub-chronic exposure to industrially important volatile organic solvents in vitro. Jurkat T cells were exposed to toluene, n-hexane and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) individually for 5 days and solvent exposure levels were confirmed by headspace gas chromatography. A neuroblastoma cell line (SH-SY5Y) was exposed to toluene for the same period. Following exposure, cells were harvested and toxicity measured in terms of the following endpoints: membrane damage (LDH leakage), perturbations in intracellular free Ca2+, changes in glutathione redox status and dual-phosphorylation of MAP kinases ERK1/2, JNK and p38. The results show that sub-chronic exposure to the volatile organic solvents causes membrane damage, increased intracellular free calcium and altered glutathione redox status in both cell lines. However, acute and sub-chronic solvent exposure did not result in MAP kinase phosphorylation. Toxicity of the solvents tested increased with hydrophobicity. The lowest-observed-adverse-effect-levels (LOAELs) measured in vitro were close to blood solvent concentrations reported for individuals exposed to the agents at levels at or below their individual threshold limit values (TLVs).

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