Lung function and bronchial reactivity in asthmatics during exposure to volatile organic compounds

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1991 Apr;143(4 Pt 1):751-4. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/143.4_Pt_1.751.


The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether vapors of organic solvents at low concentrations could exert an adverse effect in the lower airways. Under controlled conditions in a climate chamber, 11 persons with bronchial hyperreactivity to histamine and bronchial asthma were exposed for 90 min to a mixture of organic solvents at levels of zero, 2.5, and 25 mg/m3. During exposure to 25 mg/m3 a decrease in FEV1 to 90.7% of baseline value was measured. This was significantly different from the initial value (p less than 0.05), but not significantly different from the value found after sham exposure (FEV1, 97.4% of initial value). The decline in FEV1 during exposure to 25 mg/m3 was most pronounced in persons with high bronchial sensitivity. No changes were found in histamine reactivity after exposure, and no late reactions were registered. Ratings of discomfort showed different individual patterns ranging from no response to reactions towards both of the concentrations. The ratings indicated development of tolerance during exposure. Volatile organic compounds in concentrations found in both the work and the home environments may influence lung function and are probably of importance as bronchial irritants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Bronchoconstriction / drug effects
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / drug effects
  • Histamine
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiratory Mechanics*
  • Solvents / adverse effects*
  • Volatilization


  • Air Pollutants
  • Solvents
  • Histamine