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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1991 Jan;4(1):72-81.

Exposure of humans to ambient levels of ozone for 6.6 hours causes cellular and biochemical changes in the lung.

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Health Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711.


An acute (2 h) exposure of humans to 0.4 ppm ozone initiates biochemical changes in the lung that result in the production of components mediating inflammation and acute lung damage as well as components having the potential to lead to long-term effects such as fibrosis. However, many people are exposed to lower levels of ozone than this, but for periods of several hours. Therefore, it is important to determine if a prolonged exposure to low levels of ozone is also capable of causing cellular and biochemical changes in the lung. Nonsmoking males were randomly exposed to filtered air and either 0.10 ppm ozone or 0.08 ppm ozone for 6.6 h with moderate exercise (40 liters/min). Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed 18 h after each exposure, and cells and fluid were analyzed. The BAL fluid of volunteers exposed to 0.10 ppm ozone had significant increases in neutrophils (PMNs), protein, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), fibronectin, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) compared with BAL fluid from the same volunteers exposed to filtered air. In addition, there was a decrease in the ability of alveolar macrophages to phagocytize yeast via the complement receptor. Exposure to 0.08 ppm ozone resulted in significant increases in PMNs, PGE2, LDH, IL-6, alpha 1-antitrypsin, and decreased phagocytosis via the complement receptor. However, BAL fluid protein and fibronectin were no longer significantly elevated. We conclude that exposure of humans to as low a level as 0.08 ppm for 6.6 h is sufficient to initiate an inflammatory reaction in the lung.

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