Exposure to nanoparticles is related to pleural effusion, pulmonary fibrosis and granuloma

Eur Respir J. 2009 Sep;34(3):559-67. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00178308. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


Nano materials generate great benefits as well as new potential risks. Animal studies and in vitro experiments show that nanoparticles can result in lung damage and other toxicity, but no reports on the clinical toxicity in humans due to nanoparticles have yet been made. The present study aimed to examine the relationship between a group of workers' presenting with mysterious symptomatic findings and their nanoparticle exposure. Seven young female workers (aged 18-47 yrs), exposed to nanoparticles for 5-13 months, all with shortness of breath and pleural effusions were admitted to hospital. Immunological tests, examinations of bacteriology, virology and tumour markers, bronchoscopy, internal thoracoscopy and video-assisted thoracic surgery were performed. Surveys of the workplace, clinical observations and examinations of the patients were conducted. Polyacrylate, consisting of nanoparticles, was confirmed in the workplace. Pathological examinations of patients' lung tissue displayed nonspecific pulmonary inflammation, pulmonary fibrosis and foreign-body granulomas of pleura. Using transmission electron microscopy, nanoparticles were observed to lodge in the cytoplasm and caryoplasm of pulmonary epithelial and mesothelial cells, but are also located in the chest fluid. These cases arouse concern that long-term exposure to some nanoparticles without protective measures may be related to serious damage to human lungs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • China
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body / diagnosis
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body / etiology*
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body / therapy
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Nanoparticles / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion / etiology*
  • Pleural Effusion / therapy
  • Printing*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / therapy
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult