Rats were exposed for 6 hr per day to either ozone alone (0.2-0.8 ppm), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) alone (3.6-14.4 ppm), or to combinations of these two oxidant air pollutants. Their response was quantified by changes in the total protein content of lung lavage supernatants or by changes in the content of specific cell types in the lung lavage pellets. A concentration-dependent synergistic response was observed when rats were exposed to the combination of ozone and NO2. Apparent threshold concentrations for the observation of synergistic interaction between ozone and NO2 were assay specific, with epithelial cell content of lung lavage fluid being the most sensitive parameter evaluated, showing positive interaction (greater than additive response) at the lowest concentrations tested. Concurrent exposure to ozone and NO2 was necessary to elicit greater than additive responses; no such interactions were seen upon sequential exposure to ozone or NO2 in either order of presentation. Based upon apparent disappearance rates of ozone in the chambers during exposure of rats to ozone and NO2, we modelled the predicted outcomes based upon the assumption that the two oxidant gases were reacting to form nitrogen pentoxide (N2O5) in the chambers. Agreement between predicted concentrations of ozone and NO2 and those actually observed was excellent. Based upon such modelling estimates and our acute toxicological data, we conclude that synergistic toxicologic interactions between ozone and NO2 are found only at concentrations very much higher than would be encountered in environmental or occupational settings. It remains to be determined whether there are any chronic toxicological responses to exposure to combinations of ozone and NO2 at concentrations below the thresholds for observing acute responses.
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