Ethyl acrylate is an irritant known to affect the upper airways and eyes. An increase of the eye blink frequency in humans was observed during exposure to 5 ppm. Studies on the lower airways are scant and our study objective was the evaluation of pH in exhaled breath condensate (EBC-pH) and nitric oxide in exhaled breath (FeNO) as markers of inflammation. Sixteen healthy volunteers were exposed for 4 h to ethyl acrylate at a concentration of 5 ppm and to sham (0.05 ppm) in an exposure laboratory. Clinical irritation symptoms, EBC-pH (at a pCO2 of 5.33 kPa) and FeNO were assessed before and after exposure. Differences after ethyl acrylate exposure were adjusted for those after sham exposure. 5 ppm ethyl acrylate induced clinical signs of local irritation in the nose and eyes, but not in lower airways. Exposure produced a subtle, but statistically significant, decrease in breathing frequency (1 breath/min; p = 0.017) and a lower EBC-pH (by 0.045 units; p = 0.037). Concerning FeNO, we did not observe significant changes compared to sham exposure. We conclude that local effects induced by 5 ppm ethyl acrylate consist of sensory irritation of eyes and nose. In addition, acute ethyl acrylate exposure to 5 ppm resulted in a net decrease of EBC-pH. Whether that can be interpreted in terms of additional lower airway irritation or already inflammatory alterations set in needs further investigations.
Keywords: Acid-base balance; Breathing frequency; Ethyl acrylate; Exhaled nitric oxide; Sensory irritation.