Airborne Nanoparticle Release and Toxicological Risk from Metal-Oxide-Coated Textiles: Toward a Multiscale Safe-by-Design Approach

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Nano metal oxides have been proposed as alternatives to silver (Ag) nanoparticles (NPs) for antibacterial coatings. Here, cotton and polyester-cotton fabrics were sonochemically coated with zinc oxide (ZnO) and copper oxide (CuO) NPs. By varying the reaction solvent (water or ethanol), NPs with different sizes and shapes were synthesized. The cytotoxic and pro-inflammatory effects of studied NPs were investigated in vitro in human alveolar epithelial A549 and macrophage-like THP1 cells. To understand the potential respiratory impact of the NPs, the coated textiles were subjected to the abrasion tests, and the released airborne particles were measured. A very small amount of the studied metal oxides NPs was released from abrasion of the textiles coated by the ethanol-based sonochemical process. The release from the water-based coating was comparably higher. Lung and immune cells viability decreased after 24 h of exposure only at the highest studied NPs concentration (100 mu g/mL). Different from the ZnO NPs, both formulations of CuO NPs induced IL-8 release in the lung epithelial cells already at subtoxic concentrations (1-10 mu g/mL) but not in immune cells. All of the studied NPs did not induce IL-6 release by the lung and immune cells. Calculations revealed that the exposures of the NPs to human lung due to the abrasion of the textiles were lower or comparable to the minimum doses in the cell viability tests (0.1 mu g/mL), at which acute cytotoxicity was not observed. The results alleviate the concerns regarding the potential risk of these metal oxide NPs in their applications for the textile coating and provide insight for the safe-by-design approach.
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