Effects of formaldehyde gas on the respiratory tract of rhesus monkeys. Pathology and cell proliferation.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Formaldehyde is a nasal carcinogen in rats but it remains to be determined what cancer risk this chemical poses in humans. Molecular dosimetry studies of formaldehyde and cellular proliferative responses to formaldehyde-induced cytotoxicity have been studied in the rodent and are important components of the authors' ongoing research, which has now been extended to nonhuman primates, a species more analogous to humans. The present study was designed to characterize formaldehyde injury in the respiratory tract of nonhuman primates to provide a direct comparison to the toxic effects of formaldehyde in rodents. Groups of three rhesus monkeys were exposed to room air, or 6 ppm formaldehyde for 5 days per week for 1 or 6 weeks, and the respiratory tract was assessed for nature and extent of histologic responses, and changes in epithelial cell proliferation rate. Lesions were characterized by mild degeneration and early squamous metaplasia confined to specific regions of the transitional and respiratory epithelia of the nasal passages and the respiratory epithelium of the trachea and major bronchi. There was minimal progression of histologic changes between 1 and 6 weeks; however, the percent of nasal surface area affected significantly increased in the 6-week exposure group. Formaldehyde-induced lesions were associated with increases in cell proliferation rates up to 18-fold over controls, which remained significantly elevated after 6 weeks of exposure. Histologic lesions and increases in cell proliferation were most extensive in the nasal passages and were minimal in the lower airways, whereas the maxillary sinuses exhibited no evidence of a response to formaldehyde exposure. Based on the extent of lesions and cell proliferation data, it appears that the monkey is more sensitive than the rat to the acute and subacute effects of formaldehyde at 6 ppm. The absence of response in the maxillary sinuses in the monkey suggests that combining tumors of the nasal cavity and sinuses in epidemiologic studies may not be appropriate for formaldehyde cancer risk assessment. Results of this study also have provided important information for tissue sample site selection in the monkey respiratory tract for ongoing molecular dosimetry studies.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Monticello, TM; Morgan, KT; Everitt, JI; Popp, JA

Published Date

  • March 1989

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 134 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 515 - 527

PubMed ID

  • 2923182

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC1879517

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9440


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States