Publications : 2010

Cain WS, Dourson ML, Kohrman-Vincent MJ, Allen BC. 2010. Human chemosensory perception of methyl isothiocyanate: Odor and chemesthesis. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 58(2):173–180.


An unpublished laboratory study by Russell and Rush (1996) showed that human subjects sense the presence of methyl isothiocyanate (MITC) via the eyes at concentrations as low as hundreds of ppb in air, with dependence upon duration of exposure. The longer the stimulation, the lower the concentrations sensed. Application of benchmark concentration (BMC10) modeling indicated a best estimate of 330 ppb by the end of 4 h. With a confidence limit (BMCL) applied, the level dropped to 220 ppb, when employing a probit model. Receptors known as TRPA1 ion channels present in trigeminal and associated peripheral afferent nerves have shown particular sensitivity to isothiocyanates. Sensitivity to these electrophiles, which occur naturally in plants (e.g., capers and mustard greens), most likely derives from a mechanism of reversible covalent bonding. Such sensing can provide warning of potential damage rather than actual damage itself. Based upon its reputation as a lachrymator, Russell and Rush assumed that the eyes would sense MITC, before the upper airways, so gathered no data from the airways, except for odor. Field results from spills and results of acute exposures to animals covered in Dourson et al. (2010) add pertinent information on the matter.