Deep Airway Inflammation and Respiratory Disorders in Nanocomposite Workers

Thousands of researchers and workers worldwide are employed in nanocomposites manufacturing, yet little is known about their respiratory health. Aerosol exposures were characterized using real time and integrated instruments. Aerosol mass concentration ranged from 0.120 mg/m3 to 1.840 mg/m3 during nanocomposite machining processes; median particle number concentration ranged from 4.8 × 104 to 5.4 × 105 particles/cm3 . The proportion of nanoparticles varied by process from 40 to 95%. Twenty employees, working in nanocomposite materials research were examined pre-shift and post-shift using spirometry and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) in parallel with 21 controls. Pro-inflammatory leukotrienes (LT) type B4, C4, D4, and E4; tumor necrosis factor (TNF); interleukins; and anti-inflammatory lipoxins (LXA4 and LXB4) were analyzed in their exhaled breath condensate (EBC). Chronic bronchitis was present in 20% of researchers, but not in controls. A significant decrease in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC) was found in researchers post-shift (p < 0.05). Post-shift EBC samples were higher for TNF (p < 0.001), LTB4 (p < 0.001), and LTE4 (p < 0.01) compared with controls. Nanocomposites production was associated with LTB4 (p < 0.001), LTE4 (p < 0.05), and TNF (p < 0.001), in addition to pre-shift LTD4 and LXB4 (both p < 0.05). Spirometry documented minor, but significant, post-shift lung impairment. TNF and LTB4 were the most robust markers of biological effects. Proper ventilation and respiratory protection are required during nanocomposites processing.
nanoparticles, nanocomposites, exhaled breath condensate (EBC), inflammation, spirometry, FeNO