Ultrafine particles (UFP) have been postulated to significantly contribute to the adverse health effects associated with exposure to particulate matter (PM). Due to their extremely small size (aerodynamic diameter <100 nm), UFP are able to deposit deep within the lung after inhalation and evade many mechanisms responsible for the clearance of larger particles. There is a lack of biologically relevant personal exposure metrics for exposure to occupational- and environmental-related micro- and nano-sized PM. The aim of the present study is to assess UFP in induced sputum (IS) and exhaled breath condensate (EBC) as possible biomarkers for assessing lung function impairment. Sputum induction and EBC testing were performed by conventional methods. UFP particles were assessed with the NanoSight LM20 (NanoSight Ltd, London, UK). The subjects included 35 exposed and 25 non-exposed workers. There were no group differences in pulmonary function test results and differential cell counts, but 63.6% of the exposed subjects had a higher percentage of neutrophils (OR3.28 p = 0.03) compared to the non-exposed subjects. The exposed subjects had higher percentages of UFP between 10 and 50 nm (69.45 ± 18.70 vs 60.11 ± 17.52 for the non-exposed group, p = 0.004). No differences were found in the IS samples. Years of exposure correlated positively to UFP content (r = 0.342 p = 0.01) and macrophage content (r = −0.327 p = 0.03). The percentage of small fraction of UFP in EBC, but not IS, is higher in exposed workers, and EBC may be a sensitive biomarker to assess exposure to nanoparticles.
- Environmental and health effects
- Induced sputum
- Nanoparticle exposure
- Ultrafine particles