Background: To protect crewmember health, the U.S. Navy sets exposure limits for more than 200 components of submarine atmospheres. The addition of females to nuclear submarines required a reevaluation of these exposure limits, originally established for all-male crews. In the case of carbon dioxide (CO2 ), the only available data suitable for deriving an exposure limit were from a 2010 study sponsored by the British Royal Navy that reported a debatable interpretation casting doubt on whether current U.S. Navy exposure limits served to protect fetal developmental health.
Methods: About 120 time-mated female Sprague-Dawley rats (Crl: CD[SD]) were exposed to CO2 at levels of 1.5%, 2.0%, 2.5%, and 3.0% from gestation days 6 to 20. Dams were euthanized and fetuses were examined.
Results: Findings with implications for exposure limits for CO2 during pregnancy were an increased mean litter proportion of early resorptions and a lower mean litter proportion of viable fetuses in the 3.0% CO2 group.
Conclusion: The results yield a No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) of 2.5% and a Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL) of 3.0%. The results reasonably allow a point of departure of 2.5% CO2 for deriving an exposure recommendation. An interspecies uncertainty factor was applied to derive a recommended 90-day continuous exposure limit (CEL) of 0.8% for CO2 . As reproductive endpoints that are developmental in nature must be assumed to result from a single exposure at a critical point during gestation, it is further recommended that the 24-hr emergency exposure limit (EEL) also be 0.8%.
Keywords: carbon dioxide; exposure limits; inhalation; prenatal; submarine.
Published 2018. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.