Pulmonary clearance and lesions in rats after a single inhalation of ultrafine metallic nickel at dose levels comparable to the threshold limit value

Ind Health. 1999 Oct;37(4):353-63. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.37.353.


This study aimed to (1) determine the deposition and clearance rates of ultrafine metallic nickel (Uf-Ni) in rats after a 5 hours single inhalation exposure, and (2) to histopathologically examine the pulmonary lesions induced at dose levels comparable to the Occupational Exposure Limit recommended in Japan (OEL). The exposure concentrations of Uf-Ni for the 3 groups were 0.15 (Low), 1.14 (Medium), and 2.54 (High) mg/m3. Five rats/group were sacrificed at 0 h and 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 days post exposure. The amount of Ni in the lung accumulated dose-dependently. The half-times for Ni in the lung were estimated as 32 days on average, and were similar to each other regardless of the initial dosage. The histopathologically observed pulmonary lesions induced by a single inhalation of Uf-Ni were, (1) a significant increase in lung weight in the High and Medium groups with time, (2) accumulation of foamy alveolar macrophages (AM), (3) degenerated AM indicating alveolar lipoproteinosis which was aggravated for up to 4 weeks in the High group and (4) acute calcification of the degenerated AM was remarkable. The present results suggest that even a single inhalation of Uf-Ni induces potency of lung lesions at dose levels comparable to the OEL (1 mg/m3 as Ni), or the TWA of ACGIH (1.5 mg/m3 for elemental/metal).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Metals
  • Nickel / pharmacokinetics*
  • Nickel / toxicity
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Metals
  • Nickel