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Chemical reactivity of the carbon-centered free radicals and ferrous iron in coals: role of bioavailable Fe2+ in coal workers pneumoconiosis.

Huang-X; Zalma-R; Pezerat-H
Free Radic Res 1999 Jun; 30(6):439-451
Striking differences in the prevalence of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) exist between different coal mine regions. The major factors responsible for the observed regional differences in CWP have not yet been identified. In the present study, chemical reactivity of the carbon-centered free radicals in coals and lung tissues, as well as ferrous iron in the coals, were studied by ESR techniques. The ESR spectra clearly demonstrated the presence of at least two types of carbon-centered free radical species, which might respectively attribute to the macromolecular phase and the molecular phase of coal. Grinding produced free radicals in coals. Exposure of freshly ground coal to air for 28 h induced a slight increase of free radicals for most of the coals, and a slight decrease after 4 months' exposure. The lung tissue samples of coal workers deceased of CWP showed similar ESR spectra as coal samples, and these radicals were highly stable in the lung. After incubation of coals with glutathione, hydrogen peroxide, sodium formate or oxygen, the coal sample from the Gardanne mine which has never induced CWP, and thus is the least hazardous coal, showed the most significant change in the carbon-centered free radical concentration. No significant changes were observed among other coals reported to induce CWP. On the other hand, we found that the coals released different amounts of Fe2+ in an acidic medium. Interestingly, the prevalence of CWP correlates positively with the released Fe2+ content in these coals and with the amount of oxygen radicals produced by the interaction of Fe2+ with O2 in the acidified coal filtrates. Our studies indicate that the carbon-centered free radicals may not be biologically relevant to coal dust-induced pneumoconiosis, whereas the acid soluble Fe2+, which may be dissolved in the phagolysosomes of macrophages, can then lead to Fe2+-induced oxidative stress and eventual CWP development.
Free-radicals; Coal-workers; Coal-dust; Coal-miners; Acids; Iron-compounds; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Black-lung; Coal-workers-pneumoconiosis
Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016
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Free Radical Research
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New York University, New York, New York
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division