The recent discovery of magnetic nanoparticles (NPs) in human brain tissue has raised concerns regarding their source and neurotoxicity. As previous studies have suggested that magnetite in urban dust may be the source, we collected urban magnetic dust and thoroughly characterized the nature of ambient urban magnetic dust particles prior to investigating their neurotoxic potential. In addition to magnetite, magnetic dust contained an abundance (∼40%) of elemental iron (Fe0). The coexistence of magnetite and elemental iron was found in magnetic dust particles of inhalable (<10 μm) and nanoscale (<200 nm) size ranges with these particles small enough to enter the human brain via the respiratory tract and olfactory bulbs. The magnetic dust also contained nonferrous water-soluble metals (particularly Cu) that can induce formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Previous studies used engineered pure-magnetite for in vitro ROS studies. However, while magnetite was present in all magnetic dust particles collected, engineered pure-magnetite was relatively unreactive and contributed minimally to the generation of ROS. We fill a critical knowledge gap between exposure to heterogeneous ambient iron-particles and in vitro experiments with engineered versus ambient, incidental iron-bearing nanoscale minerals. Our work points to the need to further investigate the presence and properties of magnetic NPs in respirable dust with respect to their potential role in neurodegeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry