Recently, concern has been raised about effects related to environmental sulfur and/or acidic aerosols. To assess long-term effects on nonrespiratory lung function, 8 beagle dogs were exposed over a period of 13 mo for 16.5 h/day to a neutral sulfite aerosol at a sulfur(IV) concentration of 0.32 mg m(-3) and for 6 h/day to an acidic sulfate aerosol providing a hydrogen concentration of 15.2 micromol m(-3) for inhalation. Prior to exposure the dogs were kept under clean air conditions for 16 mo to establish physiological baseline values for each animal. A second group of eight dogs (control) was kept for the entire study under clean air conditions. No clinical symptoms were identified that could be related to the combined exposure. Biochemical and cellular parameters were analyzed in sequential bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluids. The permeability of the alveolo-capillary membrane and diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA) clearance was not affected. Similarly, oxidant burden of the epithelial lining fluid evaluated by levels of oxidation products in the BAL fluid protein fraction remained unchanged. Both the lysosomal enzyme beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase and the alpha-1-AT were increased (p <.05). In contrast, the cytoplasmic marker lactate dehydrogenase remained unchanged, indicating the absence of severe damages to epithelial cells or phagocytes. Various surfactant functions were not altered during exposure. Three animals showed elevated levels of the type II cell-associated alkaline phosphatase (AP), indicating a nonuniform response of type II cells. Significant correlations were found between AP and total BAL protein, but not between AP and lactate dehydrogenase, suggesting proliferation of alveolar type II cells. Absolute and relative cell counts in the BAL fluid were not influenced by exposure. Alveolar macrophages showed no alterations with regard to their respiratory burst upon stimulation with opsonized zymosan. The percentage of alveolar macrophages capable of phagocytozing latex particles was significantly decreased (p<.05), while the phagocytosis index was not altered. In view of the results of this and previous studies, we conclude that there is no synergism of effects of these two air pollutants on nonrespiratory lung functions. It is hypothesized that antagonistic effects of these air pollutants on phospholipase A2-dependent pathways account for compensatory physiological mechanisms. The results emphasize the complexity of health effects on lung functions in response to the complex mixture of air pollutants and disclose the precariousness in the risk assessment of air pollutants for humans.