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Environ Geochem Health. 2012 Apr;34(2):279-88. doi: 10.1007/s10653-011-9435-x. Epub 2011 Oct 9.

Evaluating the respiratory bioaccessibility of nickel in soil through the use of a simulated lung fluid.

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Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada.


Simulated lung fluids are solutions designed to mimic the composition of human interstitial lung fluid as closely as possible. Analysis of mineral dusts using such solutions has been used to evaluate the respiratory bioaccessibility of various elements for which solubility in the lungs is a primary determinant of reactivity. The objective of this study was to employ simulated lung fluid analysis to investigate the respiratory bioaccessibility of nickel in soils. Current occupational guidelines in Australia regulate nickel compounds in terms of water solubility, though this may not be an accurate estimation of the total nickel that will dissociate in the lungs. Surface soils were collected from the city of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, the site of an operational nickel smelter and metal mining activities. The fraction of the samples less than 10 μm was extracted from the soil, and it was this sub-10-μm fraction that was found to hold most of the total nickel present in the soil. The fine fraction was analyzed using a simulated lung fluid (modified Gamble's solution) to isolate the nickel phases soluble in the lungs. In addition, a sequential extraction was employed to compare the bioaccessible fraction to those dissolved from different binding forms in the soil. In all samples, the simulated lung fluid extracted more nickel than the two weakest leaches of the sequential extraction combined, providing a more representative nickel bioaccessibility value than the current water leach method.

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