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Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Aug;122(8):850-5. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307240. Epub 2014 Apr 18.

Repeated nitrogen dioxide exposures and eosinophilic airway inflammation in asthmatics: a randomized crossover study.

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Service des Etudes Médicales (SEM), EDF, Levallois-Perret, France.



Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a ubiquitous atmospheric pollutant, may enhance the asthmatic response to allergens through eosinophilic activation in the airways. However, the effect of NO2 on inflammation without allergen exposure is poorly studied.


We investigated whether repeated peaks of NO2, at various realistic concentrations, induce changes in airway inflammation in asthmatics.


Nineteen nonsmokers with asthma were exposed at rest in a double-blind, crossover study, in randomized order, to 200 ppb NO2, 600 ppb NO2, or clean air once for 30 min on day 1 and twice for 30 min on day 2. The three series of exposures were separated by 2 weeks. The inflammatory response in sputum was measured 6 hr (day 1), 32 hr (day 2), and 48 hr (day 3) after the first exposure, and compared with baseline values measured twice 10-30 days before the first exposure.


Compared with baseline measurements, the percentage of eosinophils in sputum increased by 57% after exposure to 600 ppb NO2 (p = 0.003) but did not change significantly after exposure to 200 ppb. The slope of the association between the percentage of eosinophils and NO2 exposure level was significant (p = 0.04). Eosinophil cationic protein in sputum was highly correlated with eosinophil count and increased significantly after exposure to 600 ppb NO2 (p = 0.001). Lung function, which was assessed daily, was not affected by NO2 exposure.


We observed that repeated peak exposures of NO2 performed without allergen exposure were associated with airway eosinophilic inflammation in asthmatics in a dose-related manner.

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