Bisulphites and metabisulphites have been described as eye, skin and mucous membrane irritants in man, and regular skin contact has induced allergic dermatitis. Sulphites in/on food have been associated with severe respiratory reactions in asthmatics and a small number of individuals suffered an exacerbation of their persistent hives on oral exposure. Single large oral doses of sulphites produced gastro-intestinal disturbances in man. A moderate acute oral and injection toxicity was indicated in laboratory animals. On repeated oral administration, the main site of toxic attack in rats, pigs and rabbits was the gastro-intestinal tract. Mild lung changes occurred in rats and nasal and respiratory tract effects were reported in dogs exposed repeatedly to a sodium sulphite aerosol. In general, a fairly low reproductive toxicity has been seen in a number of laboratory animal species exposed orally. Long-term oral studies in rats and mice with metabisulphite gave no convincing evidence of carcinogenicity, but metabisulphite in the drinking water of rats did enhance the action of a known gastro-intestinal tract carcinogen in the diet. A wide range of short-term genotoxicity assays in rats and mice involving administration orally and by injection failed to find any evidence of activity for various sulphites. The sulphites did, however, show evidence of genotoxic potential (causing transformation and inducing chromosomal damage) in mammalian cells in culture. They were also mutagenic in bacterial assays, including the Ames test, and in yeast.

Date of Publication: 1999

Number of Pages: 19

CAS Number*: 7757-83-7








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