In this study aerosol samples collected in an Asian mega-city (Kabul, Afghanistan) were compared to PM samples collected in a European location with traffic (Umeå, Sweden) and a reference urban dust material (SRM 1649b). The toxicity of each sample towards normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells and a human bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS-2B) was tested along with their ability to induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation and inflammatory responses. The extracts' morphology and elemental composition was studied by SEM-EDXRF, and filter samples were analyzed for metals and organic compounds. The PM from Kabul contained a larger fraction of fine particles, 19 times more polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and 37 times more oxygenated PAH (oxy-PAH) compared to samples from Umeå. The PM-samples from Kabul and the reference material (SRM 1649b) induced significantly stronger oxidative stress responses than the samples from Umeå. Furthermore, samples collected in Kabul induced significantly higher secretion of the cytokines IL-6, IL-8 and GM-CSF while SRM1649b induced a cytokine pattern more similar to samples collected in Umeå. Several properties of the particles could potentially explain these differences, including differences in their size distribution and contents of PAH and oxy-PAH, possibly in combination with their relative transition metal contents. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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