Acid Aerosols and Asthma: A Review

    Published: Jan 1989

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    Since much of the sulfur dioxide (SO2) that is produced from fossil fuel combustion is oxidized to sulfuric acid, (H2SO4), there is concern about the effects of inhaled H2SO4 on human health. Adolescent asthmatic subjects, unlike healthy or even adult asthmatic subjects, have shown decreased pulmonary function after inhalation of 100 μg/m3 H2SO4. This paper describes a recent study exploring the effect of inhalation of a near ambient concentration of H2SO4 in allergic adolescent subjects with asthma. Subjects were exposed via a rubber mouthpiece for 30 min during rest and 10 min during moderate exercise to filtered air, 68 μg/ m3 H2SO4, or 0.1 ppm SO2 alone or in combination. Pulmonary functions (forced expiratory volume in one second FEV1, total respiratory resistance RT and maximal flow) were measured before and after exposure. Exposure to 68 μg/m3 alone caused a significant 6% decrease in FEV1 (p = 0.012), whereas exposure to air or SO2 alone did not. Exposure to SO2 combined with the H2SO4 aerosol caused a larger increase in RT (15%) than the single exposures. These results are contrasted with similar data for adult asthmatic subjects, which failed to find pulmonary function changes.


    asthma, adolescent subjects, sulfuric acid, sulfur dioxide, pulmonary function, hyperresponsive airways

    Author Information:

    Koenig, JQ
    Research associate professors, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

    Covert, DS
    Research associate professors, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

    Pierson, WE
    Clinical professor, Pediatrics and Environmental Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

    Committee/Subcommittee: D22.03

    DOI: 10.1520/STP22839S

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