Non-invasive biomarkers of pulmonary damage and inflammation: Application to children exposed to ozone and trichloramine

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2005 Aug 7;206(2):185-90. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2004.10.022.


To date, airways injury or inflammation caused by air pollutants has been evaluated mainly by analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage, an invasive technique totally unsuitable to children. The assessment of respiratory risks in this particularly vulnerable population has thus for a long time relied on spirometric tests and self-reported symptoms which are relatively late and inaccurate indicators of lung damage. Research in the field of biomarkers is now opening new perspectives with the development of non-invasive tests allowing to monitor inflammation and damage in the deep lung. Blood tests measuring lung-specific proteins (pneumoproteins) such as Clara cell protein (CC16) and surfactant-associated proteins (A, B or D) are now available to evaluate the permeability and/or the cellular integrity of the pulmonary epithelium. The application of these tests to children has recently led to the discovery of a lung epithelium hyperpermeability caused by trichloramine (nitrogen trichloride), an irritant gas contaminating the air of indoor-chlorinated pools. Serum CC16 can also serve to detect increases of airway permeability during short-term exposures to ambient ozone. Indicators measurable in exhaled air such as nitric oxide (NO) appear more useful to detect airway inflammation. By applying the exhaled NO test to children attending summer camps, we recently found that ambient ozone produces an acute inflammatory response in children from levels slightly lower than current air quality guidelines. In a study exploring the links between atopy, asthma, and exposure to chlorination products in indoor pools, we also found that the exhaled NO test can serve to detect the chronic airway inflammation associated with excessive exposure to trichloramine. Lung-specific proteins measurable in serum and markers in exhaled air represent sensitive tools that can be used to assess non-invasively the effects of air pollutants on the respiratory tract of children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Breath Tests
  • Child
  • Chlorides / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / chemically induced*
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitrogen Compounds / toxicity*
  • Ozone / toxicity*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / blood
  • Swimming Pools
  • Uteroglobin / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Chlorides
  • Nitrogen Compounds
  • Pulmonary Surfactants
  • SCGB1A1 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Ozone
  • Uteroglobin
  • nitrogen chloride