In vitro toxicological characterization of particulate emissions from residential biomass heating systems based on old and new technologies

Pasi I. Jalava (Corresponding Author), Mikko S. Happo, Joachim Kelz, Thomas Brunner, Pasi Hakulinen, Jorma Mäki-Paakkanen, Annika Hukkanen, Jorma Jokiniemi, Ingwald Obernberger, Maija-Riitta Hirvonen

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Residential wood combustion causes major effects on the air quality on a global scale. The ambient particulate levels are known to be responsible for severe adverse health effects that include e.g. cardio-respiratory illnesses and cancer related effects, even mortality. It is known that biomass combustion derived emissions are affected by combustion technology, fuel being used and user-related practices. There are also indications that the health related toxicological effects are influenced by these parameters. This study we evaluated toxicological effects of particulate emissions (PM1) from seven different residential wood combusting furnaces. Two appliances i.e. log wood boiler and stove represented old batch combustion technology, whereas stove and tiled stove were designated as new batch combustion as three modern automated boilers were a log wood boiler, a woodchip boiler and a pellet boiler. The PM1 samples from the furnaces were collected in an experimental setup with a Dekati® gravimetric impactor on PTFE filters with the samples being weighed and extracted from the substrates and prior to toxicological analyses. The toxicological analyses were conducted after a 24-hour exposure of the mouse RAW 264.7 macrophage cell line to four doses of emission particle samples and analysis of levels of the proinflammatory cytokine TNFα, chemokine MIP-2, cytotoxicity with three different methods (MTT, PI, cell cycle analysis) and genotoxicity with the comet assay. In the correlation analysis all the toxicological results were compared with the chemical composition of the samples. All the samples induced dose-dependent increases in the studied parameters. Combustion technology greatly affected the emissions and the concomitant toxicological responses. The modern automated boilers were usually the least potent inducers of most of the parameters while emissions from the old technology log wood boiler were the most potent. In correlation analysis, the PAH and other organic composition and inorganic ash composition affected the toxicological responses differently. In conclusion, combustion technology largely affects the particulate emissions and their toxic potential this being reflected in substantially larger responses in devices with incomplete combustion. These differences become emphasized when the large emission factors from old technology appliances are taken into account.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Chemical composition
  • cytotoxicity
  • genotoxicity
  • inflammation
  • particulate matter
  • small-scale wood combustion


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