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Inhal Toxicol. 2000;12 Suppl 4:209-25.

Bioavailability of iron from coal fly ash: mechanisms of mobilization and of biological effects.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-0300, USA.


Particulate air pollution contains iron that may be involved in the pathological effects after inhalation. This article reviews work demonstrating that ambient particulate samples (Standard Reference Material [SRM] 1648 and SRM 1649, from the National Institute of Science and Technology) contain iron that can be mobilized from the particle in vitro and inside human lung epithelial (A549) cells. The mobilized iron can then catalyze the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Work is also reviewed on the generation and size fractionation of coal fly ash (CFA) from three commercially important coal types, as well as size fractionation of three types of noncombustion particles. The availability of iron from these particles to A549 cells was measured by citrate mobilization in vitro and induction of the iron storage protein ferritin in particle-treated cells. The amount of bioavailable iron decreased with increasing particle size. The ability of particles to induce synthesis of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) was also determined. As with the bioavailability of iron, there was an inverse correlation with size. Further work showed that iron in CFA is responsible for IL-8 induction. Mössbauer spectroscopy of a CFA sample before and after desferrioxamine B treatment to remove bioavailable iron showed that the bioavailable iron was associated with the glassy aluminosilicate fraction of the particle. In conclusion, this work shows that bioavailable iron is responsible for ROS production by SRMs and IL-8 induction by CFA in A549 cells. The source of this bioavailable iron in CFA is glassy aluminosilicates, which are found at higher levels in smaller sizes of CFA.

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