Toxicology of blast overpressure

Toxicology. 1997 Jul 25;121(1):1-15. doi: 10.1016/s0300-483x(97)03651-2.


Blast overpressure (BOP) or high energy impulse noise, is the sharp instantaneous rise in ambient atmospheric pressure resulting from explosive detonation or firing of weapons. Blasts that were once confined to military and to a lesser extent, occupational settings, are becoming more universal as the civilian population is now increasingly at risk of exposure to BOP from terrorist bombings that are occurring worldwide with greater frequency. Exposure to incident BOP waves can cause auditory and non-auditory damage. The primary targets for BOP damage are the hollow organs, ear, lung and gastrointestinal tract. In addition, solid organs such as heart, spleen and brain can also be injured upon exposure. However, the lung is more sensitive to damage and its injury can lead to death. The pathophysiological responses, and mortality have been extensively studied, but little attention, was given to the biochemical manifestations, and molecular mechanism(s) of injury. The injury from BOP has been, generally, attributed to its external physical impact on the body causing internal mechanical damage. However, a new hypothesis has been proposed based on experiments conducted in the Department of Respiratory Research, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and later in the Department of Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh. This hypothesis suggests that subtle biochemical changes namely, free radical-mediated oxidative stress occur and contribute to BOP-induced injury. Understanding the etiology of these changes may shed new light on the molecular mechanism(s) of injury, and can potentially offer new strategies for treatment. In this symposium. BOP research involving auditory, non-auditory, physiological, pathological, behavioral, and biochemical manifestations as well as predictive modeling and current treatment modalities of BOP-induced injury are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pressure
  • Animals
  • Blast Injuries / etiology
  • Blast Injuries / pathology
  • Blast Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Explosions
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung / blood supply
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Injury*
  • Military Science
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Health
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Violence


  • Free Radicals