Chronic exposure to non-eruptive volcanic activity as cause of bronchiolar histomorphological alteration and inflammation in mice

Camarinho, R., Garcia, P.V., Choi, H. & Rodrigues, A.S. (2019) Chronic exposure to non-eruptive volcanic activity as cause of bronchiolar histomorphological alteration and inflammation in mice.

Environmental Pollution, 253, 864-871. DOI:10.1016/j.envpol.2019.07.056 (IF2018 5,714; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
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  • Aug, 2019


It is estimated that 10% of the worldwide population lives in the vicinity of an active volcano. However, volcanogenic air pollution studies are still outnumbered when compared with anthropogenic air pollution studies, representing an unknown risk to human populations inhabiting volcanic areas worldwide. This study was carried out in the Azorean archipelago of Portugal, in areas with active non-eruptive volcanism. The hydrothermal emissions within the volcanic complex of Furnas (São Miguel Island) are responsible for the emission of nearly 1000 tons of CO2 per day, along with H2S, the radioactive gas – radon, among others. Besides the gaseous emissions, metals (e.g., Hg, Cd, Al, Ni) and particulate matter are also released into the environment. We test the hypothesis that chronic exposure to volcanogenic air pollution alters the histomorphology of the bronchioles and terminal bronchioles, using the house mouse, Mus musculus, as bioindicator species. Mus musculus were live-captured at three different locations: two villages with active volcanism and a village without any type of volcanic activity (reference site). The histomorphology of the bronchioles (diameter, epithelium thickness, smooth muscle layer thickness, submucosa thickness and the histological evaluation of the peribronchiolar inflammation) and of the terminal bronchioles (epithelium thickness and classification) were evaluated. Mice chronically exposed to volcanogenic air pollution presented bronchioles with increased epithelial thickness, increased smooth muscle layer, increased submucosa thickness and increased peribronchiolar inflammation. Similarly, terminal bronchioles presented structural alterations consistent with bronchodysplasia. For the first time we demonstrate that chronic exposure to non-eruptive volcanically active environments causes inflammation and histomorphological alterations in mice lower airways consistent with asthma and chronic bronchitis. These results reveal that chronic exposure to non-eruptive volcanic activity represents a risk factor that can affect the health of the respiratory system of humans inhabiting hydrothermal areas.