Processing of carbon-reinforced construction materials releases PM2.5 inducing inflammation and (secondary) genotoxicity in human lung epithelial cells and fibroblasts

February 15, 2023

Jana Pantzke a,b, Arne Koch a, Elias J. Zimmermann a,b, Narges Rastak b, Svenja Offer a,b, Christoph Bisig b, Stefanie Bauer b, Sebastian Oeder b, Jürgen Orasche b, Petra Fiala c, Michael Stintz c, Christopher P. Rüger a,d, Thorsten Streibel a, Sebastiano Di Bucchianico a,b, Ralf Zimmermann a,b,d
a Joint Mass Spectrometry Center, Chair of Analytical Chemistry, University of Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany
b Joint Mass Spectrometry Center, Comprehensive Molecular Analytics, Helmholtz Zentrum München, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany
c Department of Mechanical Process Engineering, Technical University of Dresden, 01187 Dresden, Germany
d Department Life, Light & Matter (LLM), University of Rostock, 18051 Rostock, Germany


This study aimed to investigate the morphological features, chemical properties, and toxic potential of particulate matter released from carbon concrete composites during dry cutting processes and the impact of prior thermal stress.
Monoculture and co-culture cell models were used to determine cytotoxicity and primary as well as secondary genotoxicity resulting from direct or indirect exposure, respectively, to the generated aerosols at the air-liquid interface (ALI).The tested CR, C3 , and ttC3 aerosols were generated by using an abrasive dust generator equipped with a diamond saw blade (Vitrocell, Waldkirch, Germany) The produced abrasive dust during the cutting process was collected and guided to the Vitrocell® automated exposure station for the in vitro exposure experiments.


Building demolition following domestic fires or abrasive processing after thermal recycling can release particles harmful for the environment and human health. To mimic such situations, particles release during dry-cutting of construction materials was investigated. A reinforcement material consisting of carbon rods (CR), carbon concrete composite (C3) and thermally treated C3 (ttC3) were physicochemically and toxicologically analyzed in monocultured lung epithelial cells, and co-cultured lung epithelial cells and fibroblasts at the air-liquid interface. C3 particles reduced their diameter to WHO fibre dimensions during thermal treatment. Caused by physical properties or by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and bisphenol A found in the materials, especially the released particles of CR and ttC3 induced an acute inflammatory response and (secondary) DNA damage. Transcriptome analysis indicated that CR and ttC3 particles carried out their toxicity via different mechanisms. While ttC3 affected pro-fibrotic pathways, CR was mostly involved in DNA damage response and in pro-oncogenic signaling.

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