Sub-chronic toxicity of low concentrations of industrial volatile organic pollutants in vitro

Catherine McDermott, Ashley Allshire, F. N A M van Pelt, James J A Heffron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Organic solvents form an important class of pollutants in the ambient air and have been associated with neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity in humans. Here we investigated the biological effects of sub-chronic exposure to industrially important volatile organic solvents in vitro. Jurkat T cells were exposed to toluene, n-hexane and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) individually for 5 days and solvent exposure levels were confirmed by headspace gas chromatography. A neuroblastoma cell line (SH-SY5Y) was exposed to toluene for the same period. Following exposure, cells were harvested and toxicity measured in terms of the following endpoints: membrane damage (LDH leakage), perturbations in intracellular free Ca2+, changes in glutathione redox status and dual-phosphorylation of MAP kinases ERK1/2, JNK and p38. The results show that sub-chronic exposure to the volatile organic solvents causes membrane damage, increased intracellular free calcium and altered glutathione redox status in both cell lines. However, acute and sub-chronic solvent exposure did not result in MAP kinase phosphorylation. Toxicity of the solvents tested increased with hydrophobicity. The lowest-observed-adverse-effect-levels (LOAELs) measured in vitro were close to blood solvent concentrations reported for individuals exposed to the agents at levels at or below their individual threshold limit values (TLVs).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


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