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Original Article
Immunological effects among workers who handle engineered nanoparticles
  1. Deborah Catherine Glass1,
  2. Mahjabeen Mazhar1,
  3. Sue Xiang2,
  4. Pamela Dean1,
  5. Pamela Simpson3,
  6. Brian Priestly1,
  7. Magdalena Plebanski2,
  8. Michael Abramson1,
  9. Malcolm Ross Sim1,
  10. Martine Dennekamp1
  1. 1Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University, 553 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Department of Immunology and Pathology, Central Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deborah Catherine Glass, Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology, Monash University, The Alfred Centre, Commercial Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004, USA;{at}


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

Statistics from


  • Contributors DG, BP, MP, MA, MS and MD obtained the funding, designed and oversaw the study. DG, MM, PD and MD carried out the data collection and cleaning. SX carried out the cytokine analyses. PS carried out the statistical analyses. DG wrote the draft manuscript which has been seen, edited and approved by the other authors.

  • Funding DG, BP, MP, MA, MS and MD received funding from the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council for the study which has been completed.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Monash University HREC and Alfred Hospital HREC.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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