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Toxicol Sci. 2012 Jan;125(1):105-15. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfr271. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

Evaluation of furfuryl alcohol sensitization potential following dermal and pulmonary exposure: enhancement of airway responsiveness.

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  • 1National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Effects Laboratory Division, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505, USA.


Furfuryl alcohol is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a high volume production chemical, with over 1 million pounds produced annually. Due to its high production volume and its numerous industrial and consumer uses, there is considerable potential for work-related exposure, as well as exposure to the general population, through pulmonary, oral, and dermal routes of exposure. Human exposure data report a high incidence of asthma in foundry mold workers exposed to furan resins, suggesting potential immunologic effects. Although furfuryl alcohol was nominated and evaluated for its carcinogenic potential by the National Toxicology Program, studies evaluating its immunotoxicity are lacking. The studies presented here evaluated the immunotoxic potential of furfuryl alcohol following exposure by the dermal and pulmonary routes using a murine model. When tested in a combined irritancy local lymph node assay, furfuryl alcohol was identified to be an irritant and mild sensitizer (EC3 = 25.6%). Pulmonary exposure to 2% furfuryl alcohol resulted in enhanced airway hyperreactivity, eosinophilic infiltration into the lungs, and enhanced cytokine production (IL-4, IL-5, and interferon-γ) by ex vivo stimulated lung-associated draining lymphoid cells. Airway hyperreactivity and eosinophilic lung infiltration were augmented by prior dermal exposure to furfuryl alcohol. These results suggest that furfuryl alcohol may play a role in the development of allergic airway disease and encourage the need for additional investigation.

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