Metal-Containing Nanoparticles in Low-Rank Coal-Derived Fly Ash from China: Characterization and Implications toward Human Lung Toxicity

Jiayuan Wu, Feiyun Tou, Yi Yang, Chang Liu, James C. Hower, Mohammed Baalousha, Gehui Wang, Min Liu, Michael F. Hochella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Characterization of nanoparticles (NPs) in coal fly ashes (CFAs) is critical for better understanding the potential health-related risks resulting from coal combustion. Based on single-particle (SP)-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) coupled with transmission electron microscopy techniques, this study is the first to determine the concentrations and sizes of metal-containing NPs in low-rank coal-derived fly ashes. Despite only comprising a minor component of the studied CFAs by mass, NPs were the dominant fraction by particle number. Fe- and Ti-containing NPs were identified as the dominant NPs with their particle number concentration ranging from 2.5 × 107 to 2.5 × 108 particles/mg. In addition, the differences of Fe-/Ti-containing NPs in various CFAs were regulated by the coalification degree of feed coals and combustion conditions of all of the low-rank CFAs tested. In the cases where these NPs in CFAs become airborne and are inhaled, they can be taken up in pulmonary interstitial fluids. This study shows that in Gamble's solution (a lung fluid simulant), 51-87% of Fe and 63-89% of Ti (ratio of the mass of Fe-/Ti-containing NPs to the total mass of Fe/Ti) exist in the NP form and remain suspended in pulmonary fluid simulants. These NPs are bioavailable and may induce lung tissue damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6644-6654
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 18 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB40000000) and the National Key R&D Program of China (2020YFC1806700). Additional funding for this work was provided by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities and the Open Foundation of East China Normal University (ECNU).

Publisher Copyright:


  • coal fly ash
  • health risk
  • lung fluid
  • metal-containing NPs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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