Composition of Metallic Elements and Size Distribution of Fine and Ultrafine Particles in a Steelmaking Factory

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Jun 7;15(6):1192. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15061192.


The characteristics of aerosol, in particular particle size and chemical composition, can have an impact on human health. Particle size distribution and chemical composition is a necessary parameter in occupational exposure assessment conducted in order to understand possible health effects. The aim of this study was to characterize workplace airborne particulate matter in a metallurgical setting by synergistically using two different approaches; Methodology: Analysis of inhalable fraction concentrations through traditional sampling equipment and ultrafine particles (UFP) concentrations and size distribution was conducted by an Electric Low-Pressure Impactor (ELPI+™). The determination of metallic elements (ME) in particles was carried out by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry; Results: Inhalable fraction and ME concentrations were below the limits set by Italian legislation and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH, 2017). The median of UFP was between 4.00 × 10⁴ and 2.92 × 10⁵ particles/cm³. ME concentrations determined in the particles collected by ELPI show differences in size range distribution; Conclusions: The adopted synergistic approach enabled a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the particles in steelmaking factories. The results could lead to a better knowledge of occupational exposure characterization, in turn affording a better understanding of occupational health issues due to metal fumes exposure.

Keywords: metallic elements; occupational exposure; ultrafine particles.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational* / analysis
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational* / chemistry
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Metallurgy
  • Metals / analysis
  • Metals / chemistry*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Occupational Exposure / standards
  • Particle Size*
  • Particulate Matter* / analysis
  • Particulate Matter* / chemistry


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Metals
  • Particulate Matter