Elemental sulfur, a natural substance, is used as a fungicide. Elemental sulfur is the most heavily used agricultural chemical in California. In 2003, annual sulfur usage in California was about 34% of the total weight of pesticide active ingredient used in production agriculture. Even though sulfur is mostly used in dust form, the respiratory health effects of elemental sulfur are not well documented. The purpose of this paper is to address the possible respiratory effect of elemental sulfur using the California Pesticide Illness Database and laboratory experiments with mice. We analyzed the California Pesticide Illness Database between 1991 and 2001. Among 127 reports of definite, probable, and possible illness involving sulfur, 21 cases (16%) were identified as respiratory related. A mouse model was used to examine whether there was an inflammatory or fibrotic response to elemental sulfur. Dust solutions were injected intratracheally into ovalbumin sensitized mice and lung damage was evaluated. Lung inflammatory response was analyzed via total lavage cell counts and differentials, and airway collagen content was analyzed histologically and biochemically. No significant differences from controls were seen in animals exposed to sulfur particles. The findings suggest that acute exposure of elemental sulfur itself may not cause an inflammatory reaction. However, further studies are needed to understand the possible health effects of chronic sulfur exposure and environmental weathering of sulfur dust.
- Acute effect
- Respiratory inflammation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)