22 September 2005
Increased levels of particulate air pollution are associated with increased respiratory and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. Some epidemiologic and toxicologic research suggests ultrafine particles (UFPs) (< 100 nm) to be more harmful per unit mass than larger particles. Our study was aimed at a quantitative comparison of acute adverse effects of different types of carbonaceous UFPs at a dose range that causes a moderate inflammatory response in lungs. We used six different particle types (primary particle size 10–50 nm, specific surface area 30–800 m 2/g, and organic content 1–20%): PrintexG, Printex90, flame soot particles with different organic content (SootL, SootH), spark-generated ultrafine carbon particles (ufCP), and the reference diesel exhaust particles (DEP) SRM1650a. Mice were instilled with 5, 20, and 50 μg of each particle type, and bronchoalveolar lavage was analyzed 24 hr after instillation for inflammatory cells and the level of proinflammatory cytokines. At respective mass-doses, particle-caused detrimental effects ranked in the following order: ufCP > SootL ≥ SootH > Printex90 > PrintexG > DEP. Relating the inflammatory effects to the particle characteristics—organic content, primary particle size, or specific surface area—demonstrates the most obvious dose response for particle surface area. Our study suggests that the surface area measurement developed by Brunauer, Emmett, and Teller is a valuable reference unit for the assessment of causative health effects for carbonaceous UFPs. Additionally, we demonstrated the existence of a threshold for the particle surface area at an instilled dose of approximately 20 cm 2, below which no acute proinflammatory responses could be detected in mice.