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Part Fibre Toxicol. 2019 Feb 21;16(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s12989-019-0294-4.

The hazards and risks of inhaled poorly soluble particles - where do we stand after 30 years of research?

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Nanoconsult BV, Proost Willemstraat 1, 6231 CV, Meerssen, The Netherlands.
Dusseldorf University, Dusseldorf, Germany.
Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA.



In 2006, titanium dioxide and carbon black were classified by IARC as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" and in 2017 the European Chemicals Agency's (ECHA) Committee for Risk Assessment concluded titanium dioxide meets the criteria to be classified as suspected of causing cancer (category 2, through the inhalation route). These classifications were based primarily on the occurrence of lung cancer in rats exposed chronically to high concentrations of these materials, as no such responses have been observed in other animal species similarly exposed. After the EU classification of titanium dioxide, it was suggested that Poorly Soluble particles of Low Toxicity (PSLTs) can be evaluated as a group.


To better understand the current state of scientific opinion, we sought perspective from several international experts on topics relevant to the classification of carbon black; titanium dioxide; and, the potential future classification of PSLTs. Areas discussed included: grouping of PSLTs; the relevance of rat lung cancer responses to high concentrations of PSLTs; and, clearance overload and implications for interpretation of inhalation toxicology studies. We found there were several areas where a large majority of experts, including ourselves, agreed. These included concerns on the grouping of PSLT and the definition of clearance overload. Regarding the extrapolation of PSLT associated lung cancer in rats there were some strongly held differences, although most experts questioned the relevance when excessive exposures which overwhelm lung clearance were required.


Given the ongoing discussion on PSLT classification and safety, we believe it is important to re-activate the public debate including experts and stakeholders. Such an open discussion would serve to formally document where scientific consensus and differences exist. This could form the basis for design of future safety programs and safety assessments.


Hazard; Lung cancer; Overload; PSLT; Particles; Risk

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