Effect of fuel zinc content on toxicological responses of particulate matter from pellet combustion in vitro

Oskari Uski, Pasi I. Jalava, Mikko S. Happo, Tiina Torvela, Jani Leskinen, Jorma Mäki-Paakkanen, Jarkko Tissari, Olli Sippula, Heikki Lamberg, Jorma Jokiniemi, Maija-Riitta Hirvonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Significant amounts of transition metals such as zinc, cadmium and copper can become enriched in the fine particle fraction during biomass combustion with Zn being one of the most abundant transition metals in wood combustion. These metals may have an important role in the toxicological properties of particulate matter (PM). Indeed, many epidemiological studies have found associations between mortality and PM Zn content. The role of Zn toxicity on combustion PM was investigated. Pellets enriched with 170, 480 and 2300 mg Zn/kg of fuel were manufactured. Emission samples were generated using a pellet boiler and the four types of PM samples; native, Zn-low, Zn-medium and Zn-high were collected with an impactor from diluted flue gas. The RAW 264.7 macrophage cell line was exposed for 24 h to different doses (15, 50,150 and 300 µg ml-1) of the emission samples to investigate their ability to cause cytotoxicity, to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), to altering the cell cycle and to trigger genotoxicity as well as to promote inflammation. Zn enriched pellets combusted in a pellet boiler produced emission PM containing ZnO. Even the Zn-low sample caused extensive cell cycle arrest and there was massive cell death of RAW 264.7 macrophages at the two highest PM doses. Moreover, only the Zn-enriched emission samples induced a dose dependent ROS response in the exposed cells. Inflammatory responses were at a low level but macrophage inflammatory protein 2 reached a statistically significant level after exposure of RAW 264.7 macrophages to ZnO containing emission particles. ZnO content of the samples was associated with significant toxicity in almost all measured endpoints. Thus, ZnO may be a key component producing toxicological responses in the PM emissions from efficient wood combustion. Zn as well as the other transition metals, may contribute a significant amount to the ROS responses evoked by ambient PM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-340
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • wood combustion
  • zinc
  • transition metals
  • pellets
  • toxicological properties


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