Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in human lung epithelial A549 cells caused by airborne volatile organic compounds emitted from pine wood and oriented strand boards

March 31, 2010

2010 Jun 16;196(1):33-41. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2010.03.015. [epub ahead of print]

Gminski R, Tang T, Mersch-Sundermann V.

Institute of Environmental Medicine and Hospital Epidemiology, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University Medical Center, Breisacher Strasse 115b, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany.

The main constituents of wood-based materials, terpenes and aldehydes, shows an effect on A549 cells in cytotoxicity (erythrosine B staining) and genotoxicity (comet assay).


Due to the massive reduction of air-change rates in modern, energy-saving houses and dwellings, the contribution of volatile organic compound (VOCs) emissions from wood-based materials to indoor air quality has become increasingly important. To evaluate toxicity of VOC mixtures typically emitted from pine wood and oriented strand boards (OSB) and their main constituents (selected terpenes and aldehydes), cytotoxicity and genotoxicity were investigated in human A549 lung cells. To facilitate exposure directly via gas phase, a 250 L emission chamber was combined with a Vitrocell exposure system. VOC exposure concentrations were measured by GC/MSD. Biological effects were determined after an exposure time of 1h by measuring cytotoxicity (erythrosine B staining) and genotoxicity (comet assay). Neither cytotoxic nor genotoxic effects were observed for VOC mixtures emitted from pine wood or OSB at loading factors of approximately 13 m(2)/m(3) (worst case conditions) of the panels (with maximum VOC levels of about 80 mg/m(3)) in comparison to clean air. While alpha-pinene and Delta(3)-carene did not induce toxic effects even at exposure concentrations of up to 1800 mg/m(3) and 600 mg/m(3), respectively, hexanal showed a cytotoxic effect at 2000 mg/m(3). The alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes 2-heptenal and 2-octenal caused genotoxic effects in concentrations exceeding 100mg/m(3) and 40 mg/m(3), respectively. In conclusion, high concentrations of VOCs and VOC mixtures emitted from pine wood and OSB did not lead to adverse effects in A549 human lung cells even at concentrations 10(2) to 10(5)-fold higher than those found in normal indoor air. Attention must be paid to mutagenic and possibly carcinogenic alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 20362040 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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