In this investigation the effects of repeated exposure to 1.5 ppm NO2 on immune competent cells in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was studied. Special attention was focused on effects on lymphocyte subpopulations. Eight healthy subjects were exposed to 1.5 ppm NO2 every second day on six occasions. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was collected at least three weeks before the exposure series as reference and 24 hours after the last exposure. The results obtained were analysed using a non-parametric test for paired observations, with each subject as his own control. Significant reductions were found in the total number and percentage of T cytotoxic-suppressor cells in BAL fluid; this caused an increase in the ratio of T helper-inducer: cytotoxic-suppressor cells. The total number of natural killer cells in the BAL fluid was also reduced. The numbers of all other cell types were unchanged after exposure. No reduction of phagocytosis of opsonised yeast particles by alveolar macrophages in vitro was detected. It is concluded that repeated short term exposures to 1.5 ppm NO2, a moderate occupational concentration, induces significant effects on immune competent bronchoalveolar lymphocytes. This indicates that previous findings of changes in the lymphoid immune system induced by NO2 in animals may well be applicable to humans.
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