Reproductive and Offspring Developmental Effects Following Maternal Inhalation Exposure to Methanol in Nonhuman Primates

Research Report 89, October 1999

Part I: Methanol Disposition and Reproductive Toxicity in Adult Females Thomas Burbacher, Danny Shen, Kimberly Grant, Lianne Sheppard, Doris Damian, Stephen Ellis, and Noelle Liberato

Part II: Developmental Effects in Infants Exposed Prenatally to Methanol Thomas Burbacher, Kimberly Grant, Danny Shen, Doris Damian, Stephen Ellis, and Noelle Liberato

In an effort to improve air quality and decrease dependence on petroleum, alternative fuels such as methanol have been considered to substitute for gasoline or diesel fuel. Methanol is also a candidate to provide the hydrogen for fuel cells. Before people are exposed to increased concentrations of methanol, the potential health effects of such exposures require study. Dr. Burbacher and colleagues of the University of Washington studied the effects of long-term exposure to methanol vapors on metabolism and reproduction in adult female monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) and developmental effects in their offspring, who were exposed prenatally to methanol. The investigators exposed adult female monkeys (11 to 12 animals/group) to varying concentrations of methanol before and during breeding and pregnancy. They collected blood from the adults at regular intervals to monitor methanol levels (which served as a marker of internal dose) and formate concentrations. They also conducted pharmacokinetic studies to determine whether methanol disposition was altered as a result of repeated methanol exposures and to assess pregnancy-related changes. Because high doses of methanol damage the central nervous system, the infants (8 to 9 animals/group) were examined at regular intervals during the first nine months of life to assess their growth and neurobehavioral development.