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J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng. 2013;48(14):1790-805. doi: 10.1080/10934529.2013.823333.

Hygroscopic aerosol deposition in the human upper respiratory tract under various thermo-humidity conditions.

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Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan 48858, USA.


The deposition of hygroscopic aerosols is highly complex in nature, which results from a cumulative effect of dynamic particle growth and the real-time size-specific deposition mechanisms. The objective of this study is to evaluate hygroscopic effects on the particle growth, transport, and deposition of nasally inhaled aerosols across a range of 0.2-2.5 μm in an adult image-based nose-throat model. Temperature and relative humidity fields were simulated using the LRN k-ω turbulence model and species transport model under a spectrum of thermo-humidity conditions. Particle growth and transport were simulated using a well validated Lagrangian tracking model coupled with a user-defined hygroscopic growth module. Results of this study indicate that the saturation level and initial particle size are the two major factors that determine the particle growth rate (d/d0), while the effect of inhalation flow rate is found to be not significant. An empirical correlation of condensation growth of nasally inhaled hygroscopic aerosols in adults has been developed based on a variety of thermo-humidity inhalation conditions. Significant elevated nasal depositions of hygroscopic aerosols could be induced by condensation growth for both sub-micrometer and small micrometer particulates. In particular, the deposition of initially 2.5 μm hygroscopic aerosols was observed to be 5-8 times that of inert particles under warm to hot saturated conditions. Results of this study have important implications in exposure assessment in hot humid environments, where much higher risks may be expected compared to normal conditions.

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