Pulmonary toxicity of silver vapours, nanoparticles and fine dusts: A review

Niels Hadrup*, Anoop Kumar Sharma, Katrin Löschner, Nicklas R. Jacobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Silver is used in a wide range of products, and during their production and use, humans may be exposed through inhalation. Therefore, it is critical to know the concentration levels at which adverse effects may occur. In rodents, inhalation of silver nanoparticles has resulted in increased silver in the lungs, lymph nodes, liver, kidney, spleen, ovaries, and testes. Reported excretion pathways of pulmonary silver are urinary and faecal excretion. Acute effects in humans of the inhalation of silver include lung failure that involved increased heart rate and decreased arterial blood oxygen pressure. Argyria-a blue-grey discoloration of skin due to deposited silver-was observed after pulmonary exposure in 3 individuals; however, the presence of silver in the discolorations was not tested. Argyria after inhalation seems to be less likely than after oral or dermal exposure. Repeated inhalation findings in rodents have shown effects on lung function, pulmonary inflammation, bile duct hyperplasia, and genotoxicity. In our evaluation, the range of NOAEC values was 0.11-0.75 mg/m3. Silver in the ionic form is likely more toxic than in the nanoparticle form but that difference could reflect their different biokinetics. However, silver nanoparticles and ions have a similar pattern of toxicity, probably reflecting that the effect of silver nanoparticles is primarily mediated by released ions. Concerning genotoxicity studies, we evaluated silver to be positive based on studies in mammalian cells in vitro and in vivo when considering various exposure routes. Carcinogenicity data are absent; therefore, no conclusion can be provided on this endpoint.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104690
JournalRegulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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