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Thirteen-week, repeated inhalation exposure of F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice to ferrocene.

  • Nikula, K J
  • Sun, J D
  • Barr, E B
  • Bechtold, W E
  • Haley, P J
  • Benson, J M
  • Eidson, A F
  • Burt, D G
  • Dahl, A R
  • Henderson, R F
Published Article
Fundamental and applied toxicology : official journal of the Society of Toxicology
Publication Date
Aug 01, 1993
PMID: 8405775


Ferrocene (dicyclopentadienyl iron; CAS No. 102-54-5) is a relatively volatile compound used as a chemical intermediate, a catalyst, and an antiknock additive in gasoline. This organometallic chemical is of particular interest because of its structural similarities to other metallocenes, some of which are carcinogenic. F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice were exposed to 0, 3.0, 10, and 30 mg ferrocene vapor/m3, 6 hr/day, 5 days/week, for 13 weeks. During these exposures, no rats or mice died, nor were any clinical signs of ferrocene-related toxicity observed. At the end of the exposures, male rats exposed to the lowest and highest level of ferrocene had decreased body weight gains compared to filtered-air-exposed control male rats, while body weight gains for all groups of both ferrocene- and filtered-air-exposed female rats were similar. Male mice exposed to ferrocene had no differences in body weight gains, compared to controls, but female mice had decreases in body weight gains at the 10 and 30 mg/m3 exposure levels. There were exposure concentration- and exposure-time-related increases in lung burdens of iron. The mean iron lung burden in rats exposed to 30 mg ferrocene vapor/m3 for 90 days was four times greater than the burden in control rats. No exposure-related changes in respiratory function, lung biochemistry, bronchoalveolar lavage cytology, total lung collagen, clinical chemistry, and hematology parameters were observed. This suggests that the accumulations of iron in lung did not cause an inflammatory response nor any functional impairment of the lung. There were no indications of developing pulmonary fibrosis nor of any hematologic toxicity. No exposure-related gross lesions were seen in any of the rats or mice at necropsy. Exposure-related histopathologic alterations, primarily pigment accumulations, were observed in the nose, larynx, trachea, lung, and liver of both species, and in the kidneys of mice. Lesions were most severe in the nasal olfactory epithelium where pigment accumulation, necrotizing inflammation, metaplasia, and epithelial regeneration occurred. Nasal lesions were observed in all ferrocene-exposed animals and differed only in severity, which was dependent on the exposure concentration. Histochemical stains of these target tissues showed the presence of iron ions. The results suggest that the mechanism of ferrocene toxicity may be the intracellular release of ferrous ion through ferrocene metabolism, followed by either iron-catalyzed lipid peroxidation of cellular membranes or the iron-catalyzed Fenton reaction to form hydroxyl radicals that directly react with other key cellular components, such as protein or DNA.

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