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Effects of chemical composition on the lung cell response to coal particles: Implications for coal workers' pneumoconiosis


Song, Y and Southam, K and Beamish, BB and Zosky, GR, Effects of chemical composition on the lung cell response to coal particles: Implications for coal workers' pneumoconiosis, Respirology pp. 1-8. ISSN 1323-7799 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

2022 The Authors. Respirology published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Asian Pacific Society of Respirology. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, ( which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

DOI: doi:10.1111/resp.14246


Background and objective

Coal mine dust has a complex and heterogeneous chemical composition. It has been suggested that coal particle chemistry plays a critical role in determining the pathogenesis of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP). In this study, we aimed to establish the association between the detrimental cellular response and the chemical composition of coal particles.


We sourced 19 real-world coal samples. Samples were crushed prior to use to minimize the impact of particle size on the response and to ensure the particles were respirable. Key chemical components and inorganic compounds were quantified in the coal samples. The cytotoxic, inflammatory and pro-fibrotic responses in epithelial cells, macrophages and fibroblasts were assessed following 24 h of exposure to coal particles. Principal component analysis (PCA) and stepwise regression were used to determine which chemical components of the coal particles were associated with the cell response.


The cytotoxic, inflammatory and pro-fibrotic response varied considerably between coal samples. There was a high level of collinearity in the cell responses and between the chemical compounds within the coal samples. PCA identified three factors that explained 75% of the variance in the cell response. Stepwise multiple regression analysis identified K2O (p <0.001) and Fe2O3 (p=0.011) as significant predictors of cytotoxicity and cytokine production, respectively.


Our data clearly demonstrate that the detrimental cellular effects of exposure to coal mine dusts are highly dependent on particle chemistry. This has implications for understanding the pathogenesis of CWP.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:coal chemistry, coal workers' pneumoconiosis, cytotoxicity, fibroblast response, inflammatory response
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Cardiovascular medicine and haematology
Research Field:Respiratory diseases
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Clinical health not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Song, Y (Dr Yong Song)
UTAS Author:Southam, K (Dr Katherine Southam)
UTAS Author:Zosky, GR (Professor Graeme Zosky)
ID Code:149950
Year Published:2022
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2022-05-03
Last Modified:2022-09-19
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

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