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Chronic Exposure of Rats to Cotton-Mill-Room Noise Changes the Cell Composition of the Tracheal Epithelium

Oliveira, Maria João R. BSc, MSc; Pereira, António S. MD, PhD; Guimarães, Laura BSc, MSc; Freitas, Diamantino PhD; Carvalho, António P. O. PhD; Grande, Nuno R. MD, PhD; Águas, Artur P. MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2002 - Volume 44 - Issue 12 - p 1135-1142
Original Articles

The work environment of cotton mill rooms of modern textile plants is characterized by noise pollution. We have taped and reproduced this noisy environment to study its effects on experimentally exposed rats. Because we have previously documented that chronic noise causes alterations in the respiratory epithelium, we have focused our investigation on the morphology of the tracheal lining. Wistar rats were exposed to the textile-type noise from 1 up to 7 months, with an average 40 hours weekly exposure of the animals. The rats were sacrificed monthly and the tracheas were studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to quantify the areas of the airway lining that were covered by ciliated, serous or other cells of the epithelium. We found that noise exposure of the rats caused a significant loss of tracheal ciliated cells; an increased density of serous cells on the epithelium balanced this change. This modification of the rat trachea was already established after 1 month of noise treatment of the animals; it did not change significantly throughout the 7-month course of the herein investigation. Loss of ciliated cells was more intense in areas of the tracheal epithelium located between the regions of cartilage rings. We conclude that the ciliated cell is an elective target for damage caused on the respiratory epithelium by the workplace noise occurring in cotton mill rooms. This modification of the respiratory epithelium is likely to impair clearance of the airways since this function depends on the activity of ciliated cells.

From the Department of Anatomy (Dr Oliveira, Dr Pereira, Dr Grande, Dr Águas) and Population Studies (Dr Guimarães), ICBAS, Abel Salazar Institute for Biomedical Sciences, UMIB and IBMC; Engineering Faculty (Dr Freitas, Dr Carvalho), Polo da Asprela, University of Porto, Portugal, European Union.

Address correspondence to: Maria João R. Oliveira, MSc, Department of Anatomy, ICBAS/UP Largo Prof. Abel Salazar, 2, 4099-003 Porto, Portugal; e-mail:

Copyright © by American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Copyright © 2002 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine