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Potentially harmful nanoparticles produced through burning coal

Date: 11/8/2017

Environmental scientists led by the Virginia Tech College of Science have discovered that the burning of coal produces nanoparticles of a highly unusual form of titanium oxide.

The burning of coal produces large quantities of otherwise rare Magnéli phases (TixO2x-1) from TiO2 minerals present in coal. The incidental discovery of Magnéli phases occurred during an investigation of coal ash spill into the Dan River in North Carolina. These downstream particles were between 10 and several hundred nanometres. Since this discovery, the particles have also been found in several other USA locations and in China.

Initial toxicology studies on aquatic organisms indicate that the particles do have toxicity potential. Further research is required into the reactivity of Magnéli phases in human lung alveolar membranes, as nanoparticles can penetrate the membrane and translocate into the bloodstream to other organs, including the heart, and many are also capable of passing the blood-brain barrier.

The direct health effect on human life is only one factor. The impact of titanium suboxide nanoparticles found in the atmosphere, in addition to greenhouse gases, on animals, water, and plants is not yet known.

Read the original report here.

Source: Virginia Tech

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MWCNT-7 is classified by IARC as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ (Group 2B).