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There is concern that air pollution standards based on health effects in young adults might be inadequate to protect children or the aged. This report reviews past studies of the effects of age on the susceptibility of animals to inhaled toxicants, after discussing factors important in comparing human and animal ages. Twenty-seven animal studies have included exposures of mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs, ranging in age from birth to 25 months, to nitrogen dioxide, ozone, oxygen, sulfur dioxide, diesel exhaust, cigarette smoke, and synthetic smog, for times ranging from 1 h to nine months. Results from animal studies give little evidence that exposure to environmental levels of pollutants during childhood might alter the structure and function of lungs in ways that are measurable at adulthood. The results suggest, however, that additional information is needed on the short-term and long-term significance of effects at different times during lung maturation. The data suggest that immature subjects might be more susceptible than adults to acute, very-high-level exposures. There are only three reports comparing the susceptibilities of aged and young adult animals. The results support few conclusions, but suggest that additional research is warranted. There is little information on the influence of age on the effects of inhaled particles.
age factors, air pollutants, lung, lung diseases, respiratory system, toxicology
Director, Lovelace Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute, Lovelace Biomedical and Environmental Research Institute, Albuquerque, NM