, 15:2052
Date: 19 Oct 2013

Nano-objects emitted during maintenance of common particle generators: direct chemical characterization with aerosol mass spectrometry and implications for risk assessments

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Abstract

Nanotechnology gives us materials with enhanced or completely new properties. At the same time, inhalation of manufactured nano-objects has been related to an array of adverse biological effects. We characterized particle emissions, which occurred during maintenance of common metal nanoparticle generators and contrasted the properties of the emitted particles with those originally produced by the generators. A new approach using online aerosol mass spectrometry (AMS), for time- and size-resolved measurements of the particle chemical composition, was applied in combination with more conventional techniques for particle sampling and analysis, including electron microscopy. Emissions during maintenance work, in terms of mass and surface area concentration in the size range of 0.02–10 μm, were dominated by large agglomerates (1–5 μm). With AMS, we show that the particle composition depends on both generator type and maintenance task being performed and that the instrument can be used for highly time-resolved selective studies of metal nanoparticle emissions. The emitted agglomerates have a relatively high probability to be deposited in the lower respiratory tract, since the mean particle diameter coincided with a peak in the lung deposition curve. Each of these agglomerates consisted of a very high number (103–105/agglomerate) of nanometer-sized primary particles originating from the particle synthesis process. This made them possess large surface areas, one of the key properties in nanotoxicology. Similar agglomerates may be emitted in a wide range of processes when nanoparticles are manufactured or handled. The fate of such agglomerates, once deposited in the respiratory tract, is unknown and should therefore be considered in future particle toxicological studies. Our results highlight the importance of including micrometer-sized particles in exposure and emission assessments.