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Environ Res. 2008 Sep;108(1):35-41. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 Jul 7.

Comparative respiratory toxicity of particles produced by traffic and sugar cane burning.

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Laboratory of Respiration Physiology, Carlos Chagas Filho Institute of Biophysics, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


The impact of particle emissions by biomass burning is increasing throughout the world. We explored the toxicity of particulate matter produced by sugar cane burning and compared these effects with equivalent mass of traffic-derived particles. For this purpose, BALB/c mice received a single intranasal instillation of either distilled water (C) or total suspended particles (15 microg) from an urban area (SP group) or biomass burning-derived particles (Bio group). Lung mechanical parameters (total, resistive and viscoelastic pressures, static elastance, and elastic component of viscoelasticity) and histology were analyzed 24h after instillation. Trace elements and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) metabolites of the two sources of particles were determined. All mechanical parameters increased similarly in both pollution groups compared with control, except airway resistive pressure, which increased only in Bio. Both exposed groups showed significantly higher fraction area of alveolar collapse, and influx of polymorphonuclear cells in lung parenchyma than C. The composition analysis of total suspended particles showed higher concentrations of PAHs and lower concentration of metals in traffic than in biomass burning-derived particles. In conclusion, we demonstrated that a single low dose of ambient particles, produced by traffic and sugar cane burning, induced significant alterations in pulmonary mechanics and lung histology in mice. Parenchymal changes were similar after exposure to both particle sources, whereas airway mechanics was more affected by biomass-derived particles. Our results indicate that biomass particles were at least as toxic as those produced by traffic.

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