Comparative microstructures and cytotoxicity assays for ballistic aerosols composed of micrometals and nanometals: respiratory health implications
Brenda I Machado1, Raquel M Suro2, Kristine M Garza2, Lawrence E Murr1
1Departments of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, 2Biological Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, TX, USA
Abstract: Aerosol particulates collected on filters from ballistic penetration and erosion events for W–Ni–Co and W–Ni–Fe kinetic energy rod projectiles penetrating steel target plates were observed to be highly cytotoxic to human epithelial A549 lung cells in culture after 48 hours of exposure. The aerosol consisted of micron-sized Fe particulates and nanoparticulate aggregates consisting of W, Ni or W, Co, and some Fe, characterized by scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy, and using energy-dispersive (X-ray) spectrometry for elemental analysis and mapping. Cytotoxic assays of manufactured micron-sized and nanosized metal particulates of W, Ni, Fe, and Co demonstrated that, consistent with many studies in the literature, only the nanoparticulate elements demonstrated measurable cytotoxicity. These results suggest the potential for very severe, short-term, human toxicity, in particular to the respiratory system on inhaling ballistic aerosols.
Keywords: cytotoxicity assays, ballistic penetration, metal aerosols, micron-nanoparticulate analysis, microstructure, microchemical, analysis
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