Skip to Main Navigation
Skip to Page Content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Share This:

Abstract for IMM98005

Immunotoxicity Range-Finding Report of the Water Disinfection Byproduct, Sodium Chlorite in Female B6C3F1 Mice

CASRN: 7758-19-2
Chemical Formula: ClHO2.Na
Molecular Weight: 90.441


The following abstract presents results of a study conducted by a contract laboratory for the National Toxicology Program. The findings have not been peer reviewed and were not evaluated in accordance with the levels of evidence criteria established by NTP in March 2009. The findings and conclusions for this study should not be construed to represent the views of the NTP or the U.S. Government.

Disinfection by-products (DBPs) are contaminants found in drinking water. Chlorite is one of the DBPs that are formed as a by-product of the chlorination/ozonation process used to purify water to acceptable drinking water standards. The potential effects of drinking water contaminants to affect adversely the immune system is a concern of both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Several drinking water DBPs have been identified and selected for evaluation of their potential effects on the immune system in a joint project between the EPA and the NIEHS.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) requested that a dose range-finding study be performed in order to establish the potential effects of sodium chlorite (SCI) on the immune system and to determine doses that could be used in a full immunotoxicology study. These studies were conducted in female B6C3F1 mice. The animals were exposed to SCI based on the concentration of the test article in the drinking water. Five SCI concentrations of 0.1, 1, 5, 15 and 30 mg/L were utilized. SCI solutions were prepared fresh every two weeks in tap water and stored refrigerated. The in-life phase of these studies was carried out between 23 February 1999 and 12 November 1999.

The baseline toxicology studies are summarized in Table ES-1. SCI was administered in the drinking water from water bottles for 28 days at 0.1, 1, 5, 15 and 30 mg/L/day. There was no statistical difference in drinking water consumption from animals exposed to SCI as compared to the tap water controls. There were few notable changes among the standard toxicological parameters that were assessed. There was no significant difference in body weight gain between the exposed and control animals after experimental period; however, combined body weights measured on day 22 of the exposure were significantly higher (<5%) in the 1, 5, and 15 mg/L SCI exposure groups than the measured control weights. No gross pathological lesions were observed in the SCI-exposed animals; furthermore, there were no differences observed in either terminal body weight, thymus or lung weight. Absolute spleen, liver and kidney weights were increased (10-23%) in several of the SCI exposure groups. In most cases, this increase was not observed when the organ weights were expressed as relative (% body weight) weight; a 15% increase in the relative spleen weight was observed in the 5 mg/L SCI dose group. The erythrocyte count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, MCV, MCH, MCHC, platelets, leukocyte counts and leukocyte differential were unaffected by SCI. Reticulocyte counts were significantly increased (34%) in the 15 mg/L exposure group.

The immunological studies are summarized in Table ES-2. Few immunological parameters were affected by SCI. Spleen cell numbers were unaffected by SCI exposure. Additionally, phenotypic enumeration of the spleen cells revealed that the absolute number of B cells, total T cells, T helper cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells were unchanged after 28 days of SCI exposure. A 26% increase in T suppresser/cytotoxic cells was measured in the 30 mg/L exposure group. Exposure to SCI produced a stimulatory trend in the antibody-forming cell (AFC) response to sheep erythrocytes; however, the response at each SCI exposure group was not significantly different from the response measured in the control group. Peritoneal macrophage activation, serum IgM antibody titer to sheep erythrocytes, splenic mixed leukocyte response (MLR) and basal natural killer (NK) cell activity were all unaffected by SCI exposure. Augmented NK activity was inhibited at the lowest SCI dose, but not at higher exposure levels.

In conclusion, SCI, when administered in the drinking water at doses 0.1 to 30 mg/L, produced few toxicological and immunological effects. A slight increase in spleen weight and reticulocyte counts was noted; however, these changes were not dose dependent. Additionally, an increase in the absolute number of splenic CD8+ T cells was observed in the highest SCI exposure group, and a stimulatory trend was measured in the splenic antibody-forming cell (AFC) response to sheep erythrocytes. Lastly, augmented NK activity was inhibited at the lowest SCI dose, but not at higher treatment levels. Based on the results of this range-finding study, SCI is not likely to have immunotoxicological effects in humans.


Table ES-1
Summary Table for Toxicology Studies
Parameter Result Maximum
Body Weight
Day 1 No Effect
Day 8 No Effect
Day 15 No Effect
Day 22 Increase 5% 5
Weight Changes
Day 8-1 No Effect
Day 15-1 No Effect
Day 22-1 Increased 66% 5
Day 29-1 No Effect
Gross Pathology No Effect
Histopathology Not Processed
Organ Weights
Liver Increase 17% 0.1 Abs wgt
Spleen Increase 23% 5 Abs Wgt
Lungs No Effect
Thymus No Effect
Kidney Increase 17% 0.1 Abs Wgt
RBCs No Effect
Hemaglobin No Effect
Hematocrit No Effect
MCV No Effect
MCH No Effect
MCHC No Effect
Platelets No Effect
Reticulocytes Increase 34% 15
Leukocytes No Effect
Leukocyte Diff No Effect
Lymphocytes No Effect
Neutrophils No Effect
Eosinophils No Effect

Table ES-2
Summary Table for Immunology Studies
Parameter Results Maximum
Surface Markers (Absolute Values)
lg+ No Effect
CD3+ No Effect
CD4+CD8- No Effect
CD4-CD8+ Increase 26% 30
CD4+CD8+ No Effect
NK1.1+CD3- No Effect
Mac-3+ No Effect
lgM Humoral Immune Response to Sheet Erythrocytes
lgM AFC Assay No Effect
lgM Serum Titer No Effect
Mixed Leukocyte Response
MLR No Effect
Macrophage Activating Assay
% Suppression
without Stimulation
No Effect
% Suppression
with Stimulation
No Effect
NK Cell Activity
Basal NK
LU/107 No Effect
LU/Spleen No Effect
Augmented NK
LU/107 Decrease 42% 0.1
LU/Spleen No Effect