Bioaccessibility studies of ferro-chromium alloy particles for a simulated inhalation scenario: A comparative study with the pure metals and stainless steel

Authors

  • Klara Midander,

    1. Division of Surface and Corrosion Science, School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Drottning Kristinas väg 51, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Alfredo de Frutos,

    1. Division of Surface and Corrosion Science, School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Drottning Kristinas väg 51, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Metalúrgicas, CENIM-CSIC, Avda. Gregorio del Amo 8, 28040, Madrid, Spain
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  • Yolanda Hedberg,

    1. International Chromium Development Association, 45 Rue De Lisbonne, 75008 Paris, France
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  • Grant Darrie,

    1. Division of Surface and Corrosion Science, School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Drottning Kristinas väg 51, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Inger Odnevall Wallinder

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Surface and Corrosion Science, School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Drottning Kristinas väg 51, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
    • Division of Surface and Corrosion Science, School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Drottning Kristinas väg 51, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden.
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Abstract

The European product safety legislation, REACH, requires that companies that manufacture, import, or use chemicals demonstrate safe use and high level of protection of their products placed on the market from a human health and environmental perspective. This process involves detailed assessment of potential hazards for various toxicity endpoints induced by the use of chemicals with a minimum use of animal testing. Such an assessment requires thorough understanding of relevant exposure scenarios including material characteristics and intrinsic properties and how, for instance, physical and chemical properties change from the manufacturing phase, throughout use, to final disposal. Temporary or permanent adverse health effects induced by particles depend either on their shape or physical characteristics, and/or on chemical interactions with the particle surface upon human exposure. Potential adverse effects caused by the exposure of metal particles through the gastrointestinal system, the pulmonary system, or the skin, and their subsequent potential for particle dissolution and metal release in contact with biological media, show significant gaps of knowledge. In vitro bioaccessibility testing at conditions of relevance for different exposure scenarios, combined with the generation of a detailed understanding of intrinsic material properties and surface characteristics, are in this context a useful approach to address aspects of relevance for accurate risk and hazard assessment of chemicals, including metals and alloys and to avoid the use of in vivo testing. Alloys are essential engineering materials in all kinds of applications in society, but their potential adverse effects on human health and the environment are very seldom assessed. Alloys are treated in REACH as mixtures of their constituent elements, an approach highly inappropriate because intrinsic properties of alloys generally are totally different compared with their pure metal components. A large research effort was therefore conducted to generate quantitative bioaccessibility data for particles of ferro-chromium alloys compared with particles of the pure metals and stainless steel exposed at in vitro conditions in synthetic biological media of relevance for particle inhalation and ingestion. All results are presented combining bioaccessibility data with aspects of particle characteristics, surface composition, and barrier properties of surface oxides. Iron and chromium were the main elements released from ferro-chromium alloys upon exposure in synthetic biological media. Both elements revealed time-dependent release processes. One week exposures resulted in very small released particle fractions being less than 0.3% of the particle mass at acidic conditions and less than 0.001% in near pH-neutral media. The extent of Fe released from ferro-chromium alloy particles was significantly lower compared with particles of pure Fe, whereas Cr was released to a very low and similar extent as from particles of pure Cr and stainless steel. Low release rates are a result of a surface oxide with passive properties predominantly composed of chromium(III)-rich oxides and silica and, to a lesser extent, of iron(II,III)oxides. Neither the relative bulk alloy composition nor the surface composition can be used to predict or assess the extent of metals released in different synthetic biological media. Ferro-chromium alloys cannot be assessed from the behavior of their pure metal constituents. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2010;6:441–455. © 2009 SETAC

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