Authors: Phillips JI, Green YF, Davies JCA, Murray J

Source: Am J Ind Med 2010;53:763-7


Nanoparticles are being used in ever increasing numbers in a range of industrial and medical products. Questions surrounding their potential to cause toxic effects in humans have been raised. Although animal experiments predict that nanoparticles are more toxic than their larger counterparts there are few descriptions in the literature of human exposure. A case described in 1994 has been re-examined from a pathology perspective. The subject, a 38-year-old previously healthy male, inhaled nanoparticles of nickel while spraying nickel onto bushes for turbine bearings using a metal arc process. He died 13 days after being exposed and the cause of death at autopsy was adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Nickel particles <25 nm in diameter were identified in lung macrophages using transmission electron microscopy. High levels of nickel were measured in his urine and his kidneys showed evidence of acute tubular necrosis.