Toxic elements in tobacco and in cigarette smoke: inflammation and sensitization

Metallomics. 2011 Nov;3(11):1181-98. doi: 10.1039/c1mt00066g. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


Biochemically and pathologically, there is strong evidence for both atopic and nonatopic airway sensitization, hyperresponsiveness, and inflammation as a consequence of exposure to tobacco mainstream or sidestream smoke particulate. There is growing evidence for the relation between exposure to mainstream and sidestream smoke and diseases resulting from reactive oxidant challenge and inflammation directly as a consequence of the combined activity of neutrophils, macrophages, dendritic cells, eosinophils, basophils, as a humoral immunological consequence of sensitization, and that the metal components of the particulate play a role in adjuvant effects. As an end consequence, carcinogenicity is a known outcome of chronic inflammation. Smokeless tobacco has been evaluated by the IARC as a group 1 carcinogen. Of the many harmful constituents in smokeless tobacco, oral tissue metallothionein gradients suggest that metals contribute to the toxicity from smokeless tobacco use and possibly sensitization. This work reviews and examines work on probable contributions of toxic metals from tobacco and smoke to pathology observed as a consequence of smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunization*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced
  • Metals / immunology
  • Metals / toxicity
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / immunology*
  • Tobacco / chemistry*
  • Tobacco / toxicity*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / chemistry


  • Metals
  • Smoke
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution