Size-resolved chemical composition and toxicity of particles released from refit operations in shipyards

Ship refit and repair operations in shipyards generate aerosol emissions with high potential for environmental impacts. Metal-bearing nano-, fine and coarse particles are incidentally formed and can be released to indoor and ambient air and the aquatic environment. This work aimed to further the understanding of these impacts by characterising particle size-resolved chemical composition (15 nm – 10 μm), organophosphate esters (OPEs) content (e.g., plasticisers) and cytotoxic and genotoxic potential. Results showed that nanoparticle emissions (20–110 nm) took place in bursts, coinciding with the use of mechanical abraders and spray-painting guns. Tracers of these activities were Sc, V, Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Rb, Nb, and Cs. Key components were V and Cu, probably sourcing from nanoadditives in the coatings. Abrasion of coatings also emitted OPEs, especially from old paints. Toxicity assessments consistently evidenced hazardous potential for the different endpoints assessed, for a number of samples. Exposures to spray-painting aerosols were linked with reduced cell viability (cytotoxicity), significant generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and increases in micronuclei frequency (genotoxicity). Even though spray-painting did not contribute significantly to aerosol mass or number concentrations, it was a major driver of potential health effects. Results suggest that aerosol chemical composition (e.g., content in nano-sized Cu or V) may have a larger impact on toxicity than aerosol concentration. While direct human exposures may be prevented using personal and collective protective equipment and environmental release can be minimised by enclosures and filtration systems, impacts on ambient air and the aquatic environment cannot be fully prevented. The continued use of good practices (exhaust, dilution, general ventilation systems, PPE, already in place) is encouraged to reduce inhalation exposures inside the tents. Understanding the size-resolved chemical and toxicological properties of aerosols is key to reducing human health and environmental impacts of ship refit operations in shipyards.


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  • Accession Number: 01883846
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 30 2023 8:59AM