Methanol extracts from 4 pairs of airconditioner filters (one fire-exposed and one control) from various locations (A, B, C and D) at various distances from the site of the fire were examined for their capacity to induce structural chromosomal aberrations and/or cytotoxicity in Chinese hamster V79 cells. Extracts from 2 additional sets of 3 filters which were exposed to urban air for 3 consecutive periods of 10 or 11 days some 4 months after the fire were also tested. Chromosomal aberrations were induced by all filter extracts from location B, as well as by an unused (non-exposed) filter, in a dose-dependent manner. Without the addition of metabolizing enzymes, aberrations were induced only at concentrations which caused more than 95% cell killing. This was not taken as an indication for clastogenic activity of the filter extracts, but was assumed to represent the chromosomal expression of metabolic changes in dying cells. Upon the addition of S9, chromosomal aberrations were induced at biologically relevant survival rates. Under metabolizing conditions, the ranking of the potential of the filter extracts from location B to induce chromosomal aberrations and to cause cell killing was identical. The remaining extracts (locations A, C and D) were therefore tested for cytotoxicity only. The toxicity data indicated that, of 3 pairs of filters, the fire-exposed one was not different from the control. Of the fourth pair (location B), the fire-exposed filter was 2.0-2.5 times more cytotoxic and clastogenic than the control. However, extracts of urban air-exposed filters from this location (exposed in March and April 1987) showed a large variation in toxicity and clastogenicity as well. One was clearly more active than the control (but less than the fire-exposed filter), while the other 2 were either somewhat more or less clastogenic than the control filter. In addition, 4 out of 5 filters from this location were more polluted (as indicated by cytotoxicity) than all the filters from the other locations, irrespective of whether they were fire-exposed or not. It is concluded that the results of this V79 cytotoxicity/clastogenicity test did not confirm the hypothesis that the fire at Schweizerhalle produced clastogenic material at quantities detectable under the conditions employed. © 1988.
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