Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A

Cytotoxicity and characterization of particles collected from an indium-tin oxide production facility.

PMID 25208660


Occupational exposure to indium compound particles has recently been associated with lung disease among workers in the indium-tin oxide (ITO) industry. Previous studies suggested that excessive alveolar surfactant and reactive oxygen species (ROS) may play a role in the development of pulmonary lesions following exposure to indium compounds. However, toxicity at the cellular level has not been comprehensively evaluated. Thus, the aim of this study was to assess which, if any, compounds encountered during ITO production are toxic to cultured cells and ultimately contribute to the pathogenesis of indium lung disease. The compounds used in this study were collected from eight different processing stages at an ITO production facility. Enhanced dark field imaging showed 5 of the compounds significantly associated with cells within 1 h, suggesting that cellular reactions to the compound particles may be occurring rapidly. To examine the potential cytotoxic effects of these associations, ROS generation, cell viability, and apoptosis were evaluated following exposures in RAW 264.7 mouse monocyte macrophage and BEAS-2B human bronchial epithelial cell lines. Both exhibited reduced viability with exposures, while apoptosis only occurred in RAW 264.7 cells. Our results suggested that excessive ROS production is likely not the predominant mechanism underlying indium-induced lung disease. However, the effects on cell viability reveal that several of the compounds are cytotoxic, and therefore, exposures need to be carefully monitored in the industrial setting.