Camarinho, R., Pardo, A.M., Garcia, P.V. & Rodrigues, A.S. (2022) Epithelial morphometric alterations and mucosecretory responses in the nasal cavity of mice chronically exposed to hydrothermal emissions.Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 44, 2783-2797. DOI:10.1007/s10653-021-01067-x (IF2022 4,2; Q1 )
Air pollutants (either of natural or anthropogenic origin) represent a considerable environmental risk to human health by affecting the respiratory system and causing respiratory disorders. In this study, we investigate the effects of chronic exposure to hydrothermal emissions on the nasal cavity of mice since it is the first and the most exposed region of the respiratory system. This study, carried in S. Miguel Island, Azores—Portugal, used Mus musculus as a bioindicator species. Mice were captured in an area with non-eruptive active volcanism (Furnas Village) and another area without volcanism (Rabo de Peixe, reference site). The hydrothermal emissions present at Furnas Village are characterized by the continuous release of several gases (CO2, H2S, 222Rn) along with metals (e.g. Hg, Cd, Zn, Al) and particulate matter into the environment. We test the hypothesis whether chronic exposure to this specific type of pollution causes epithelial morphometric, mucosecretory and neuronal alterations on the nasal cavity. Thickness measurements were taken in the squamous, respiratory and olfactory epithelia. The relative density of cell types (basal, support and neurons) was also assessed in the olfactory epithelium and the mucosecretory activity was determined in the lateral nasal glands, Bowman’s gland and goblet cells. Mice chronically exposed to hydrothermal emissions presented thinner olfactory epithelia and lesser mucous production, which could result in loss of olfactory capabilities as well as a decrease in the protective function provided by the mucous to the lower respiratory tract. For the first time, it is demonstrated that, in mice, this specific type of non-eruptive active volcanism causes epithelial and mucosecretory alterations, leading to the loss of olfactory capabilities.