Respiratory tract toxicity in rats exposed to Mexico City air.

O. R. Moss, E. A. Gross, R. A. James, D. B. Janszen, P. W. Ross, K. C. Roberts, A. M. Howard, J. R. Harkema, L. Calderón-Garcidueñas, K. T. Morgan

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9 Scopus citations


The rat has been used extensively as a health sentinel, indicator, or monitor of environmental health hazards, but this model has not been directly validated against human exposures. Humans in Mexico City show upper respiratory tract lesions and evidence of pulmonary damage related to their environmental inhalation exposure. In this study, male and female F344 rats were exposed (23 hr/day) in Mexico City to local Mexico City air (MCA)* for up to seven weeks. Controls were maintained at the same location under filtered air. Prior to these exposures, several steps were taken. First, the nasal passages of normal male rats shipped from the United States and housed in Mexico City were examined for mycoplasma infection; no evidence of infection was found. In addition, a mobile exposure and monitoring system was assembled and, with an ozone (O3) exposure atmosphere, was tested along with supporting histopathology techniques and analysis of rat nasal and lung tissues. Last, the entire exposure model (equipment and animals) was transported to Mexico City and validated for a three-week period. During the seven-week study there were 18 one-hour intervals during which the average O3 concentration of MCA in the exposure chamber exceeded the US National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 0.120 ppm 03 (hourly average, not to be exceeded more than once per year). This prolonged exposure of healthy F344 rats to MCA containing episodically low to moderate concentrations of 03 (as well as other urban air pollutants) did not induce inflammatory or epithelial lesions in the nasal airways or lung as measured by qualitative histologic techniques or quantitative morphometric techniques. These findings agree with those of previous controlled O3 inhalation studies, but they are in contrast to reports indicating that O3-polluted MCA causes significant nasal mucosal injury in adults and children living in southwestern Mexico City. Taken together, these findings may suggest that human airways are markedly more susceptible to the toxic effects of MCA than are the airways of the F344 rat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24; discussion 25-29
JournalResearch report (Health Effects Institute)
Issue number100
StatePublished - Mar 2001


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