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Differences in estimates of size distribution of beryllium powder materials using phase contrast microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and liquid suspension counter techniques.

Stefaniak-AB; Hoover-MD; Dickerson-RM; Day-GA; Breysse-PN; Scripsick-RC
Part Fibre Toxicol 2007 Feb; 4:3
Accurate characterization of the physicochemical properties of aerosols generated for inhalation toxicology studies is essential for obtaining meaningful results. Great emphasis must also be placed on characterizing particle properties of materials as administered in inhalation studies. Thus, research is needed to identify a suite of techniques capable of characterizing the multiple particle properties (i.e., size, mass, surface area, number) of a material that may influence toxicity. The purpose of this study was to characterize the morphology and investigate the size distribution of a model toxicant, beryllium. Beryllium metal, oxides, and alloy particles were aerodynamically size-separated using an aerosol cyclone, imaged dry using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), then characterized using phase contrast microscopy (PCM), a liquid suspension particle counter (LPC), and computer-controlled SEM (CCSEM). Beryllium metal powder was compact with smaller sub-micrometer size particles attached to the surface of larger particles, whereas the beryllium oxides and alloy particles were clusters of primary particles. As expected, the geometric mean (GM) diameter of metal powder determined using PCM decreased with aerodynamic size, but when suspended in liquid for LPC or CCSEM analysis, the GM diameter decreased by a factor of two (p < 0.001). This observation suggested that the smaller submicrometer size particles attached to the surface of larger particles and/or particle agglomerates detach in liquid, thereby shifting the particle size distribution downward. The GM diameters of the oxide materials were similar regardless of sizing technique, but observed differences were generally significant (p < 0.001). For oxides, aerodynamic cluster size will dictate deposition in the lung, but primary particle size may influence biological activity. The GM diameter of alloy particles determined using PCM became smaller with decreasing aerodynamic size fraction; however, when suspended in liquid for CCSEM and LPC analyses, GM particle size decreased by a factor of two (p < 0.001) suggesting that alloy particles detach in liquid. Detachment of particles in liquid could have significance for the expected versus actual size (and number) distribution of aerosol delivered to an exposure subject. Thus, a suite of complimentary analytical techniques may be necessary for estimating size distribution. Consideration should be given to thoroughly understanding the influence of any liquid vehicle which may alter the expected aerosol size distribution.
Beryllium-compounds; Beryllium-disease; Physiological-chemistry; Aerosol-particles; Aerosols; Inhalation-studies; Toxicology; Particle-aerodynamics; Particle-counters; Microscopic-analysis
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, Mailstop H-2703, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV, 26505
7440-41-7; 1304-56-9
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Source Name
Particle and Fibre Toxicology
Performing Organization
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
Page last reviewed: March 11, 2019
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division