An effort to test the embryotoxicity of benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde to murine embryonic stem cells using airborne exposure technique

Inhal Toxicol. 2009 Oct;21(12):973-8. doi: 10.1080/08958370802687493.


Benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde are well-known indoor air pollutants, especially after house decoration. They are also common pollutants in the working places of the plastic industry, chemical industry, and leather industry. It has been reported that these pollutants cause people to be irritated, sick, experience a headache, and be dizzy. They also have the potential to induce asthma, aplastic anemia, and leukemia, even cause abortion or fetus malformation in humans. In this study, the airborne toxicity of benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde to murine embryonic stem cells (mES cells) were tested using airborne exposure technique to evaluate the mES cell airborne exposure model on embryotoxicity prediction. Briefly, mES cells were cultured on Transwell inserts and were exposed to an airborne surrounding of test chemicals in a chamber for 1 h at 37 degrees C. Cytotoxicity was determined using the MTT assay after further culture for 18 h at 37 degrees C in normal medium. The airborne IC(50) (50% inhibition concentration) of benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde derived from the fitted dose-response curves were 17,400 +/- 1290, 16,000 +/- 250, 4680 +/- 500, and 620 +/- 310 ppm, respectively. Formaldehyde was found to be the compound most toxic to mES cells compared to benzene homologues. The toxicity data had good correlation with the in vivo data. The results showed that the mES airborne exposure model may be used to predict embryotoxicity of volatile organic compounds.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Atmosphere Exposure Chambers
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coloring Agents
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Solvents / toxicity*
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Coloring Agents
  • Solvents
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles
  • thiazolyl blue