Transport and Deposition of Welding Fume Agglomerates in a Realistic Human Nasal Airway

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Abstract

Welding fume is a complex mixture containing ultra-fine particles in the nanometer range. Rather than being in the form of a singular sphere, due to the high particle concentration, welding fume particles agglomerate into long straight chains, branches, or other forms of compact shapes. Understanding the transport and deposition of these nano-agglomerates in human respiratory systems is of great interest as welding fumes are a known health hazard. The neurotoxin manganese (Mn) is a common element in welding fumes. Particulate Mn, either as soluble salts or oxides, that has deposited on the olfactory mucosa in human nasal airway is transported along the olfactory nerve to the olfactory bulb within the brain. If this Mn is further transported to the basal ganglia of the brain, it could accumulate at the part of the brain that is the focal point of its neurotoxicity. Accounting for various dynamic shape factors due to particle agglomeration, the current computational study is focused on the exposure route, the deposition pattern, and the deposition efficiency of the inhaled welding fume particles in a realistic human nasal cavity. Particular attention is given to the deposition pattern and deposition efficiency of inhaled welding fume agglomerates in the nasal olfactory region. For particles in the nanoscale, molecular diffusion is the dominant transport mechanism. Therefore, Brownian diffusion, hydrodynamic drag, Saffman lift force, and gravitational force are included in the model study. The deposition efficiencies for single spherical particles, two kinds of agglomerates of primary particles, two-dimensional planar and straight chains, are investigated for a range of primary particle sizes and a range of number of primary particles per agglomerate. A small fraction of the inhaled welding fume agglomerates is deposited on the olfactory mucosa, approximately in the range 0.1–1%, and depends on particle size and morphology. The strong size dependence of the deposition in olfactory mucosa on particle size implies that the occupation deposition of welding fume manganese can be expected to vary with welding method.

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