Immunotoxicological effects of JP-8 jet fuel exposure

David T. Harris, Debbie Sakiestewa, Raymond F. Robledo, Mark Witten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Chronic exposure to jet fuel has been shown to have adverse effects on human liver function, to cause emotional dysfunction, to cause abnormal electroencephalograms, to cause shortened attention spans, and to decrease sensorimotor speed (3-5). Due to the decision by the United States Air Force to implement the widespread use of JP-8 jet fuel in its operations, a thorough understanding of its potential effects upon exposed personnel is both critical and necessary. Exposure to potential environmental toxicants such as JP-8 may have significant effects on host systems beyond those readily visible (e.g., physiology, cardiology, respirator, etc.): e.g., the immune system. Significant changes in immune consequences, even if short- lived, may have serious consequences for the exposed host that may impinge affect susceptibility to infectious agents. Major alterations in immune function that are long-lasting may result in an increased likelihood of development and/or progression of cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases. In the current study mice were exposed for 1 h/day for 7 days to varying concentrations of aerosolized JP-8 jet fuel to simulate occupational exposures. Twenty-four hours after the last exposure the mice were analyzed for effects on their immune systems. It was observed that even at exposure concentrations as low as 100 mg/m3 detrimental effects on the immune system occurred. Decreases in viable immune cell numbers and immune organ weights were found. Jet fuel exposure resulted in losses of different immune cell subpopulations depending upon the immune organ being examined. Further, JP-8 exposure resulted in significantly decreased immune function, as analyzed by mitogenesis assays. Suppressed immune function could not be overcome by the addition of exogenous growth factors known to stimulate immune function. Thus, short-term, low concentration exposure of mice to JP-8 jet fuel caused significant toxicological effects on the immune system. It appears that the immune system may be the most sensitive indicator of toxicological damage due to JP-8 exposure, as effects were seen at concentrations of jet fuel that did not evidence change in other biological systems. Such changes may have significant effects on the health of the exposed individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalToxicology and Industrial Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • JP-8 jet fuel
  • hydrocarbon inhalation
  • immunotoxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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