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Toxicol Sci. 2007 Jun;97(2):355-63. Epub 2007 Mar 7.

Evaluation of the contact and respiratory sensitization potential of volatile organic compounds generated by simulated indoor air chemistry.

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  • 1National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.


Up to 60 million people working indoors experience symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, and fatigue. Investigations into these complaints have ascribed the effects to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from building materials, cleaning formulations, or other consumer products. New compounds can result when the VOCs react with hydroxyl or nitrate radicals or ozone present in indoor environments. Several oxygenated organic compounds, such as glyoxal, methylglyoxal, glycolaldehyde, and diacetyl, have been identified as possible reaction products of indoor environment chemistry. Although research has previously identified diacetyl and glyoxal as sensitizers, additional experiments were conducted in these studies to further classify their sensitization potential. Sensitization potential of these four compounds was assessed using quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) programs. Derek for Windows and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health logistic regression predicted all compounds to be sensitizers, while TOPKAT 6.2 predicted all compounds except for methylglyoxal. All compounds were tested in a combined irritancy and local lymph node assay (LLNA). All compounds except for glyoxal were found to be irritants and all tested positive in the LLNA with EC3 values ranging from 0.42 to 1.9%. Methylglyoxal significantly increased both the B220(+) and IgE(+)B220(+) cell populations in the draining lymph nodes and total serum IgE levels. The four compounds generated by indoor air chemistry were predicted by QSAR and animal modeling to be sensitizers, with the potential for methylglyoxal to induce IgE. The identification of these compounds as sensitizers may help to explain some of the health effects associated with indoor air complaints.

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