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Electron microscopy of particles deposited in the lungs of nickel refinery workers

The size, morphology, and chemical composition of particles deposited in the lungs of two nickel refinery workers were studied by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The particles were extracted from the lung tissue by low-temperature ashing or by dissolution in tetramethylammonium hydroxide. The suitability of both sample preparation techniques was checked with reference materials. Both approaches lead to Fe-rich artifact particles. Low-temperature ashing leads to oxidation of small (diameter < 2 μm) metallic Ni and Ni sulfide particles, dissolution in tetramethylammonium hydroxide to removal of sulfate surface layers. Silicates and alumosilicates are the most abundant particle groups in the lungs of both subjects. From the various metal-dominated particle groups, Ni-rich particles are most abundant followed by Fe-rich and Ti-rich particles. Ni appears to be present predominantly as an oxide. Pure Ni metal and Ni sulfides were not observed. The presence of soluble Ni phases was not investigated as they will not be preserved during sample preparation. Based on their spherical morphology, it is estimated that a large fraction of Ni-rich particles (50–60 % by number) as well as Fe-rich and Cu-rich particles (27–45 %) originate from high-temperature processes (smelting, welding). This fraction is much lower for silicates (3–5 %), alumosilicates (1–2 %),...

Küpper, Miriam; Weinbruch, Stephan; Skaug, Vidar; Skogstad, Asbjørn; Thornér, Elin Einarsdóttir; Benker, Nathalie; Ebert, Martin; Chashchin, Valery; Odland, Jon Øyvind; Thomassen, Yngvar
Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 407(21): 6435–6445
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