Effect of short-term stainless steel welding fume inhalation exposure on lung inflammation, injury, and defense responses in rats

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007 Sep 15;223(3):234-45. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2007.06.020. Epub 2007 Jul 6.


Many welders have experienced bronchitis, metal fume fever, lung function changes, and an increase in the incidence of lung infection. Questions remain regarding the possible mechanisms associated with the potential pulmonary effects of welding fume exposure. The objective was to assess the early effects of stainless steel (SS) welding fume inhalation on lung injury, inflammation, and defense responses. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to gas metal arc-SS welding fume at a concentration of 15 or 40 mg/m(3) x 3 h/day for 1, 3, or 10 days. The control group was exposed to filtered air. To assess lung defense responses, some animals were intratracheally inoculated with 5x10(4) Listeria monocytogenes 1 day after the last exposure. Welding particles were collected during exposure, and elemental composition and particle size were determined. At 1, 4, 6, 11, 14, and 30 days after the final exposure, parameters of lung injury (lactate dehydrogenase and albumin) and inflammation (PMN influx) were measured in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. In addition, particle-induced effects on pulmonary clearance of bacteria and macrophage function were assessed. SS particles were composed of Fe, Cr, Mn, and Ni. Particle size distribution analysis indicated the mass median aerodynamic diameter of the generated fume to be 0.255 microm. Parameters of lung injury were significantly elevated at all time points post-exposure compared to controls except for 30 days. Interestingly, no significant difference in lung PMNs was observed between the SS and control groups at 1, 4, and 6 days post-exposure. After 6 days post-exposure, a dramatic increase in lung PMNs was observed in the SS group compared to air controls. Lung bacteria clearance and macrophage function were reduced and immune and inflammatory cytokines were altered in the SS group. In summary, short-term exposure of rats to SS welding fume caused significant lung damage and suppressed lung defense responses to bacterial infection, but had a delayed effect on pulmonary inflammation. Additional chronic inhalation studies are needed to further examine the lung effects associated with SS welding fume exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Listeriosis / etiology
  • Listeriosis / microbiology
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Pneumonia / chemically induced*
  • Pneumonia / immunology
  • Pneumonia / pathology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / etiology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stainless Steel*
  • Toxicity Tests / instrumentation
  • Toxicity Tests / methods
  • Welding*


  • Cytokines
  • Particulate Matter
  • Stainless Steel