Black carbon toxicity dependence on particle coating: Measurements with a novel cell exposure method

Henri Hakkarainen (Corresponding Author), Laura Salo, Santtu Mikkonen, Sanna Saarikoski, Minna Aurela, Kimmo Teinilä, Mika Ihalainen, Sampsa Martikainen, Petteri Marjanen, Teemu Lepistö, Niina Kuittinen, Karri Saarnio, Päivi Aakko-Saksa, Tobias V. Pfeiffer, Hilkka Timonen, Topi Rönkkö, Pasi I. Jalava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Black carbon (BC) is a component of ambient particulate matter which originates from incomplete combustion emissions. BC is regarded as an important short-lived climate forcer, and a significant public health hazard. These two concerns have made BC a focus in aerosol science. Even though, the toxicity of BC particles is well recognized, the mechanism of toxicity for BC as a part of the total gas and particle emission mixture from combustion is still largely unknown and studies concerning it are scarce. In the present study, using a novel thermophoresis-based air-liquid interface (ALI) in vitro exposure system, we studied the toxicity of combustion-generated aerosols containing high levels of BC, diluted to atmospheric levels (1 to 10 μg/m3). Applying multiple different aerosol treatments, we simulated different sources and atmospheric aging processes, and utilizing several toxicological endpoints, we thoroughly examined emission toxicity. Our results revealed that an organic coating on the BC particles increased the toxicity, which was seen as larger genotoxicity and immunosuppression. Furthermore, aging of the aerosol also increased its toxicity. A deeper statistical analysis of the results supported our initial conclusions and additionally revealed that toxicity increased with decreasing particle size. These findings regarding BC toxicity can be applied to support policies and technologies to reduce the most hazardous compositions of BC emissions. Additionally, our study showed that the thermophoretic ALI system is both a suitable and useful tool for toxicological studies of emission aerosols.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156543
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue numberPt 4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • ALI
  • BC
  • Genotoxicity
  • Inflammation
  • PM
  • Environmental Monitoring/methods
  • Particle Size
  • Air Pollutants/analysis
  • Carbon/analysis
  • Particulate Matter/analysis
  • Soot/analysis
  • Aerosols/analysis


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