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Immunological effects among workers who handle engineered nanoparticles


Objective To determine whether exposure of workers handling engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) may result in increased inflammation and changes in lung function.

Methods A prospective panel study compared changes in several markers of inflammation for ENP handling and non-ENP handling control workers. Nanoparticle exposure was measured during ENP handling and for controls. Lung function, fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), C-reactive protein (CRP), blood cell counts and several serum cytokines were measured at baseline, at the end of the shift and at the end of the working week.

Results Nanoparticle exposure was not higher when ENPs were being handled; nanoparticle counts were higher in offices and in ambient air than in laboratories. There were no differences at baseline in lung function, FeNO, haemoglobin, platelet, white cell counts or CRP levels between those who handled nanoparticles and those who did not, with or without asthmatic participants. There were statistically significant increases in sCD40 and sTNFR2 over the working day for those who handled ENPs. The changes were larger and statistically significant over the working week and sCD62P also showed a statistically significant difference. The changes were slightly smaller and less likely to be statistically significant for atopic than for non-atopic participants.

Conclusions Even at low ENP exposure, increases in three cytokines were significant over the week for those who handled nanoparticles, compared with those who did not. However, exposure to low and transient levels of nanoparticles was insufficient, to trigger measurable changes in spirometry, FeNO, CRP or blood cell counts.

  • engineered nanoparticles
  • immune markers
  • blood
  • spirometry

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