Component-specific toxic concerns of the inhalable fraction of urban road dust
Faculty of Sciences. Chemistry
Environmental geochemistry and health. - Kew
, p. 689-696
University of Antwerp
Continuous global urbanisation causes an ever-growing ecological footprint of pollution. Road dust (RD), one of these pollutants, poses a health concern due to carcinogenic and toxic components potentially present in the micron-sized fractions. The literature reports on the concentrations of trace, toxic metals and metalloids present in RD (Hooker and Nathanail in Chem Geol 226:340-351, 2006), but the literature on its molecular composition is limited. Recent reports on the bioaccessibility of platinum group metals are also reported (Colombo et al. in Chem Geol 226:340-351, 2008). In vitro and animal toxicological studies confirmed that the chemical composition of inhaled particles plays a major role in its toxic, genotoxic and carcinogenic mechanisms, but the component-specific toxic effects are still not understood. Particle-bound airborne transition metals can also lead to the production of reactive oxygen species in lung tissue; a special concern amongst particularly susceptible cohorts (children and elderly). The characterisation of the molecular composition of the fine fraction is evidently of importance for public health. During a pilot study, partially characterised size-fractioned RD samples (Barrett et al. in Eviron Sci Technol 44:2940-2946, 2010) were analysed for their elemental concentration using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. In addition, separately dispersed particles (200 particles per size fraction) were analysed individually by means of computer-controlled electron probe X-ray micro-analysis (CC-EPXMA) and their molecular structure probed by studying elemental associations. These were correlated with micro-Raman spectroscopy (MRS) results. It was found that the fine fraction (< 38 mu m) had the highest Pb (238 ppm) and Cr (171 ppm) concentrations. The CC-EPXMA data showed > 50 % association of Cr-rich particles with Pb, and the MRS data showed that the Cr was mostly present as lead chromate and therefore in the Cr(VI) oxidation state. Concentrations of both Pb and Cr decreased substantially (279 (< 38 mu m)-13 ppm (< 1 mm); 171 (< 38 mu m)-91 ppm (< 1 mm), respectively) in the larger fractions. Apart from rather alarmingly high concentrations of oxidative stressors (Cu, Fe, Mn), the carcinogenic and toxic potential of the inhalable fraction is evident. Preliminary bioaccessibility data indicated that both Cr and Pb are readily mobilised in artificial lysosomal liquid and up to 19 % of Cr and 47 % of Pb were released.