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      Metal and Silicate Particles Including Nanoparticles Are Present in Electronic Cigarette Cartomizer Fluid and Aerosol

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          Electronic cigarettes (EC) deliver aerosol by heating fluid containing nicotine. Cartomizer EC combine the fluid chamber and heating element in a single unit. Because EC do not burn tobacco, they may be safer than conventional cigarettes. Their use is rapidly increasing worldwide with little prior testing of their aerosol.


          We tested the hypothesis that EC aerosol contains metals derived from various components in EC.


          Cartomizer contents and aerosols were analyzed using light and electron microscopy, cytotoxicity testing, x-ray microanalysis, particle counting, and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry.


          The filament, a nickel-chromium wire, was coupled to a thicker copper wire coated with silver. The silver coating was sometimes missing. Four tin solder joints attached the wires to each other and coupled the copper/silver wire to the air tube and mouthpiece. All cartomizers had evidence of use before packaging (burn spots on the fibers and electrophoretic movement of fluid in the fibers). Fibers in two cartomizers had green deposits that contained copper. Centrifugation of the fibers produced large pellets containing tin. Tin particles and tin whiskers were identified in cartridge fluid and outer fibers. Cartomizer fluid with tin particles was cytotoxic in assays using human pulmonary fibroblasts. The aerosol contained particles >1 µm comprised of tin, silver, iron, nickel, aluminum, and silicate and nanoparticles (<100 nm) of tin, chromium and nickel. The concentrations of nine of eleven elements in EC aerosol were higher than or equal to the corresponding concentrations in conventional cigarette smoke. Many of the elements identified in EC aerosol are known to cause respiratory distress and disease.


          The presence of metal and silicate particles in cartomizer aerosol demonstrates the need for improved quality control in EC design and manufacture and studies on how EC aerosol impacts the health of users and bystanders.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Pulmonary and systemic distribution of inhaled ultrafine silver particles in rats.

          The cardiovascular system is currently considered a target for particulate matter, especially for ultrafine particles. In addition to autonomic or cytokine mediated effects, the direct interaction of inhaled materials with the target tissue must be examined to understand the underlying mechanisms. In the first approach, pulmonary and systemic distribution of inhaled ultrafine elemental silver (EAg) particles was investigated on the basis of morphology and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) analysis. Rats were exposed for 6 hr at a concentration of 133 microg EAg m(3) (3 x 10(6) cm(3), 15 nm modal diameter) and were sacrificed on days 0, 1, 4, and 7. ICP-MS analysis showed that 1.7 microg Ag was found in the lungs immediately after the end of exposure. Amounts of Ag in the lungs decreased rapidly with time, and by day 7 only 4% of the initial burden remained. In the blood, significant amounts of Ag were detected on day 0 and thereafter decreased rapidly. In the liver, kidney, spleen, brain, and heart, low concentrations of Ag were observed. Nasal cavities, especially the posterior portion, and lung-associated lymph nodes showed relatively high concentrations of Ag. For comparison, rats received by intratracheal instillation either 150 microL aqueous solution of 7 microg silver nitrate (AgNO(3) (4.4 microg Ag) or 150 microL aqueous suspension of 50 microg agglomerated ultrafine EAg particles. A portion of the agglomerates remained undissolved in the alveolar macrophages and in the septum for at least 7 days. In contrast, rapid clearance of instilled water-soluble AgNO(3) from the lung was observed. These findings show that although instilled agglomerates of ultrafine EAg particles were retained in the lung, Ag was rapidly cleared from the lung after inhalation of ultrafine EAg particles, as well as after instillation of AgNO(3), and entered systemic pathways.
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            Inhaled nanoparticles--a current review.

            The field of nanotechnology may hold the promise of significant improvements in the health and well being of patients, as well as in manufacturing technologies. The knowledge of this impact of nanomaterials on public health is limited so far. This paper briefly reviews the unique size-controlled properties of nanomaterials, their disposition in the body after inhalation, and the factors influencing the fate of inhaled nanomaterials. The physiology of the lung makes it an ideal target organ for non-invasive local and systemic drug delivery, especially for protein and poorly water-soluble drugs that have low oral bioavailability via oral administration. The potential application of pulmonary drug delivery of nanoparticles to the lungs, specifically in context of published results reported on nanomaterials in environmental epidemiology and toxicology is reviewed in this paper.
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              Metal-based nanoparticles and their toxicity assessment.

              Nanoparticles (NPs) can potentially cause adverse effects on organ, tissue, cellular, subcellular, and protein levels due to their unusual physicochemical properties (e.g., small size, high surface area to volume ratio, chemical composition, crystallinity, electronic properties, surface structure reactivity and functional groups, inorganic or organic coatings, solubility, shape, and aggregation behavior). Metal NPs, in particular, have received increasing interest due to their widespread medical, consumer, industrial, and military applications. However, as particle size decreases, some metal-based NPs are showing increased toxicity, even if the same material is relatively inert in its bulk form (e.g., Ag, Au, and Cu). NPs also interact with proteins and enzymes within mammalian cells and they can interfere with the antioxidant defense mechanism leading to reactive oxygen species generation, the initiation of an inflammatory response and perturbation and destruction of the mitochondria causing apoptosis or necrosis. As a result, there are many challenges to overcome before we can determine if the benefits outweigh the risks associated with NPs.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                20 March 2013
                : 8
                : 3
                [1 ]Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, University of California Riverside, Riverside, California, United States of America
                [2 ]Central Facility for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of California Riverside, Riverside, California, United States of America
                University of Kansas, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: PT MW. Performed the experiments: MW AV KB SL PT. Analyzed the data: MW AV KB SL PT. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: PT KB. Wrote the paper: MW PT SL.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 11
                This work was supported by grants from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) to PT, a Cornelius Hopper Award to MW, a MARC National Institutes of Health (NIH) fellowship to AV, and a TRDRP Postdoctoral Fellowship to SL. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Physical Chemistry
                Materials Science
                Material by Structure
                Non-Clinical Medicine
                Environmental Health
                Public Health
                Environmental Health
                Tobacco Control
                Environmental and Occupational Lung Diseases
                Smoking Related Disorders
                Toxic Agents



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