Combustion-generated nanoparticulates in the El Paso, TX, USA / Juarez, Mexico Metroplex: their comparative characterization and potential for adverse health effects

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2006 Mar;3(1):48-66. doi: 10.3390/ijerph2006030007.


In this paper we report on the collection of fine (PM1) and ultrafine (PM0.1), or nanoparticulate, carbonaceous materials using thermophoretic precipitation onto silicon monoxide/formvar-coated 3 mm grids which were examined in the transmission electron microscope (TEM). We characterize and compare diesel particulate matter (DPM), tire particulate matter (TPM), wood burning particulate matter, and other soot (or black carbons (BC)) along with carbon nanotube and related fullerene nanoparticle aggregates in the outdoor air, as well as carbon nanotube aggregates in the indoor air; and with reference to specific gas combustion sources. These TEM investigations include detailed microstructural and microdiffraction observations and comparisons as they relate to the aggregate morphologies as well as their component (primary) nanoparticles. We have also conducted both clinical surveys regarding asthma incidence and the use of gas cooking stoves as well as random surveys by zip code throughout the city of El Paso. In addition, we report on short term (2 day) and longer term (2 week) in vitro assays for black carbon and a commercial multiwall carbon nanotube aggregate sample using a murine macrophage cell line, which demonstrate significant cytotoxicity; comparable to a chrysotile asbestos nanoparticulate reference. The multi-wall carbon nanotube aggregate material is identical to those collected in the indoor and outdoor air, and may serve as a surrogate. Taken together with the plethora of toxic responses reported for DPM, these findings prompt concerns for airborne carbonaceous nanoparticulates in general. The implications of these preliminary findings and their potential health effects, as well as directions for related studies addressing these complex issues, will also be examined.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mexico
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanoparticles
  • Texas


  • Air Pollutants