DEC 16, 2014 12:00 AM PST

Israeli Device Measures Foreign Matter in Lungs

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Firefighters and rescue workers who conducted the rescue and cleanup operations at Ground Zero from September 2001 to May 2002 was exposed to hazardous airborne particles that led to a disturbing "WTC cough" - obstructed airways and inflammatory bronchial hyperactivity - and acute inflammation of the lungs. At the time, bronchoscopy, the insertion of a fiber optic bronchoscope into the lung, was the only way to obtain lung samples, but this method is highly invasive and impractical for screening large populations.

That motivated Prof. Elizabeth Fireman of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Institute for Pulmonary and Allergic Diseases at TAU-affiliated Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center to experiment with a new technique: Induced Sputum (IS). In IS hypertonic saline is inhaled to produce a mucus expectorate that can be tested for hazardous particles. She flew to Ground Zero and tested 39 New York City firefighters using the IS biomonitoring method and then compared these results against a control group of Israeli firefighters. Her technique identified very dangerous metals, such as mercury, in the rescue workers' lungs.

Now, in a new study published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, Prof. Fireman and a team of researchers at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center examine the benefits of using the IS technique to assess the effect of pollution on urban asthmatic children. The study reveals that environmental sampling stations located in cities around the world are not sufficient to protect the health of these children.

"After our last study on occupational exposure, I decided to examine the most vulnerable sector in the field of asthma - children," said Prof. Fireman. "Environmental monitoring systems are only capable of measuring large particle matter, which is mostly expelled by the lungs. I wanted to know what happened to the small particle matter capable of evading the body's immunological mechanisms, and I wanted to know how they affected asthmatic kids."

For the purposes of the study, Prof. Fireman's team recruited 136 children from two to twelve years of age who had already been referred for asthmatic evaluations to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Their parents completed a clinical and demographic International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Childhood (ISAAC)-based questionnaire that included passive smoking status, known present and past diseases, and respiratory symptoms. Afterward, all of the children underwent IS testing in order to detect and measure particulate matter in their lungs.

In the course of the IS testing, the children inhaled 3 percent nebulized material for up to twenty minutes through an ultrasonic nebulizer, which harnesses mist to administer medication.

"We compared our results with the indices published by rooftop pollution stations in Tel Aviv," said Prof. Fireman. "And while we do not discount the importance of maintaining such environmental stations, we found their measurements to be at odds with our own findings, suggesting they cannot be used as the sole measurement of pollution levels."

While further studies are necessary to investigate the practicality and feasibility of using IS to assess large populations, Prof. Fireman is confident her findings demonstrate the capability of IS to biologically monitor the accumulation of airborne particles in the lungs of children with asthma.

"Most important, perhaps, we have found that environmental monitoring is not enough. You need a biomonitoring technique, like IS, which is a more physiologically sensitive," said Prof. Fireman. "This study suggests that we are not well protected by environmental stations. To help parents determine whether they should continue to live with their children in polluted areas, we will need to combine our strategies."
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
FEB 04, 2020
Immunology
FEB 04, 2020
The Gut Deploys Protective Mechanisms in Coordination with Your Mealtime Habits
At mealtime, every mouthful of food contains a possible risk of incoming pathogens to the digestive system. The gut takes protective measures to account fo...
FEB 06, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 06, 2020
Concussion detector could pick up concussions in athletes, right from the sidelines
Concussions are brain traumas caused by a blow to the head or a whiplash injury. The risk of concussions are greatly heightened in athletes playing high co...
FEB 11, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 11, 2020
Portable device turns smartphones into diagnostic labs
Your smartphone lets you connect with friends, stores your memories, sends work emails and pays for your groceries. Soon, it could even help diagnose if yo...
FEB 12, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 12, 2020
Using Genomics to Learn More About a Mumps Outbreak
Though vaccination rates are high, small mumps outbreaks sometimes still occur....
FEB 18, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 18, 2020
26 Facts About The Human Heart
Traditionally Valentine's day is celebrated on February 14, and it's a celebration of love where people show their affection by sending cards, flow...
FEB 21, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
FEB 21, 2020
Why is it so Difficult to Develop a Vaccine for Coronavirus?
As of February 21st, 2,250 have died worldwide from Coronavirus, while 18,862 have recovered and 55,703 are currently infected. Having made top news storie...
Loading Comments...