Properties of polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHMG) associated with fatal lung injury in Korea

Dong Uk Park, Jihoon Park, Kee Won Yang, Ju Hyun Park, Jung Hwan Kwon, Han Bin Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The use of humidifier disinfectant (HD) has been determined to be associated with lung injuries (HDLI) in Korea. Although HD brands containing polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHMG) oligomers have been found to cause more HDLI compared to brands containing other disinfectants, the physicochemical properties of PHMG have been poorly defined. We aimed to quantify the PHMG dissolved in HD brands, characterize the number-average (Mn) and weight-average (Mw) molecular masses, and identify the polymerization degree of PHMG. Analysis of the PHMG oligomers was performed using a matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (MALDI-TOF MS) operated in positive-ion reflectron mode. Eight brands of HD containing PHMG were identified. The PHMG concentrations in these brands ranged from 160 to 37,200 ppm (mean = 3100.9 ppm). Concentration was a significant variable among and within HD brands. The degree of PHMG oligomerization fell within the range of two to four. The averages of Mn and Mw were 517.2 g/mol (range: 422–613 g/mol) and 537.3 g/mol (range: 441.0–678.0 g/mol), respectively. Based on the average molecular weight and the degree of polymerization, the PHMG examined here could be regarded as oligomers, which may be associated with the highest proportion of HDLI being caused by PHMG.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3301
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by the Special Commission on Social Disaster Investigation (Grant No. 12198215600) and by the “Technology Program for Establishing Biocide Safety Management” funded by the Korea Ministry of Environment (Grant No.2018002490001).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 MDPI AG. All rights reserved.


  • Humidifier disinfectant-associated lung injury
  • Molecular mass
  • Oligomer
  • PHMG
  • Polymerization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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