OBJECTIVES: Air pollution particulates have been identified as having adverse effects on respiratory health. The present study was undertaken to further clarify the effects of diesel exhaust on bronchoalveolar cells and soluble components in normal healthy subjects. The study was also designed to evaluate whether a ceramic particle trap at the end of the tail pipe, from an idling engine, would reduce indices of airway inflammation. METHODS: The study comprised three exposures in all 10 healthy never smoking subjects; air, diluted diesel exhaust, and diluted diesel exhaust filtered with a ceramic particle trap. The exposures were given for 1 hour in randomised order about 3 weeks apart. The diesel exhaust exposure apperatus has previously been carefully developed and evaluated. Bronchoalveolar lavage was performed 24 hours after exposures and the lavage fluids from the bronchial and bronchoalveolar region were analysed for cells and soluble components. RESULTS: The particle trap reduced the mean steady state number of particles by 50%, but the concentrations of the other measured compounds were almost unchanged. It was found that diesel exhaust caused an increase in neutrophils in airway lavage, together with an adverse influence on the phagocytosis by alveolar macrophages in vitro. Furthermore, the diesel exhaust was found to be able to induce a migration of alveolar macrophages into the airspaces, together with reduction in CD3+CD25+ cells. (CD = cluster of differentiation) The use of the specific ceramic particle trap at the end of the tail pipe was not sufficient to completely abolish these effects when interacting with the exhaust from an idling vehicle. CONCLUSIONS: The current study showed that exposure to diesel exhaust may induce neutrophil and alveolar macrophage recruitment into the airways and suppress alveolar macrophage function. The particle trap did not cause significant reduction of effects induced by diesel exhaust compared with unfiltered diesel exhaust. Further studies are warranted to evaluate more efficient treatment devices to reduce adverse reactions to diesel exhaust in the airways.
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