Metal fumes fever (MFF) is an inflammatory condition, whose mechanism is yet unclear, associated with the inhalation of metal fumes, particularly zinc. In this study we investigate experimentally the hypothesis of a two-step mechanism of MFF onset: (1) the photocatalytic production of airborne hydrogen peroxide (H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub>) via ZnO and (2) the production of hydroxyl radicals (HOׄ) through Fenton reaction via magnetite (Fe<sub>3</sub>O<sub>4</sub>) nanoparticles. Photocatalysis and Fenton reaction products were measured using a multiscattering-enhanced absorbance device and assessing the degradation of bromophenol blue with microplate photometry, respectively. We observed that in the presence of UV, ZnO produces 3 to 4-times more H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub> than UV alone or that non-UV irradiated ZnO. In the presence of biologically-relevant ligands, we also measured a Fenton reaction at physiological pH with either Fe(II), Fe(III) or Fe<sub>3</sub>O<sub>4</sub> nanoparticles. Our results support the hypothesis of a two-step mechanism of MFF onset, in which the prior presence of Fe in the lungs exacerbates the oxidative stress, triggered by the photocatalysis of ZnO, a situation that could occurs when welding galvanized steel. More broadly, this raises the question of the role of the Fenton mechanism in respiratory exposure to metal particles and its possible contribution to other lung diseases.
© 2022. The Author(s).