Subway station dust-induced pulmonary inflammation may be due to the dysfunction of alveolar macrophages: Possible contribution of bound elements

Eun Jung Park, Mi Jin Yang, Min Sung Kang, Young Min Jo, Cheolho Yoon, Hyun bin Kim, Dong Wan Kim, Gwang Hee Lee, Ik Hwan Kwon, Hee Jin Park, Jin Bae Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With its increasing value as a means of public transportation, the health effects of the air in subway stations have attracted public concern. In the current study, we investigated the pulmonary toxicity of dust collected from an air purifier installed on the platform of the busiest subway station in Seoul. We found that the dust contained various elements which are attributable to the facilities and equipment used to operate the subway system. Particularly, iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), zirconium (Zr), barium (Ba), and molybdenum (Mo) levels were more notable in comparison with those in dust collected from the ventilation chamber of a subway station. To explore the health effects of inhaled dust, we first instilled via the trachea in ICR mice for 13 weeks. The total number of pulmonary macrophages increased significantly with the dose, accompanying hematological changes. Dust-laden alveolar macrophages and inflammatory cells accumulated in the perivascular regions in the lungs of the treated mice, and pulmonary levels of CXCL-1, TNF-α, and TGF-β increased clearly compared with the control. The CCR5 and CD54 level expressed on BAL cell membranes was also enhanced following exposure to dust, whereas the CXCR2 level tended to decrease in the same samples. In addition, we treated the dust to alveolar macrophages (known as dust cells), lysosomal and mitochondrial function decreased, accompanied by cell death, and NO production was rapidly elevated with concentration. Moreover, the expression of autophagy- (p62) and anti-oxidant (SOD-2)-related proteins increased, and the expression of inflammation-related genes was dramatically up-regulated in the dust-treated cells. Therefore, we suggest that dysfunction of alveolar macrophages may importantly contribute to dust-induced inflammatory responses and that the exposure concentrations of Cr, Fe, Mo, Zr, and Ba should be considered carefully when assessing the health risks associated with subway dust. We also hypothesize that the bound elements may contribute to dust-induced macrophage dysfunction by inhibiting viability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153618
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Sept

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Alveolar macrophages
  • Barium
  • Indoor pollutants
  • Inflammation
  • Inhalation
  • Underground dust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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