Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) which has not previously been used in investigating the effect of sulphur dioxide (SO2) on the human lung was performed on 12 subjects before and after controlled chamber exposure with SO2 for 20 minutes. BAL fluid 24 hours after exposure with 10 mg SO2/m3 (4 ppm, 10 subjects) showed increased alveolar macrophage activity as judged by an increase in lysozyme positive macrophages. Twenty four hours after 20 mg/m3 (4 subjects) a further increase was seen, which was accompanied by an increase in total numbers of macrophages and lymphocytes. Seventy two hours after exposure (4 subjects) cell numbers had virtually returned to pre-exposure levels. These previously uninvestigated reactions indicate potentially noxious effects of SO2 in the lungs at exposure levels that are regarded as relatively safe.
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