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Talc, a hydrous magnesium silicate, often used for genital hygiene purposes, is associated with ovarian carcinoma in case-control studies. Its potential to cause inflammation, injury, and functional changes in cells has been described. A complication of such studies is that talc preparations may be contaminated with other materials. A previous study by (Beck et al. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 87:222-34, 1987) used a hamster model to study talc and granite dust exposure effects on various biochemical and cellular inflammatory markers. Our current study accessed key materials used in that 1987 study; we re-analyzed the original talc dust with contemporary scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray analysis (SEM/EDX) for contaminants. We also examined the original bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells with polarized light microscopy to quantify cell-associated birefringent particles to gain insight into the talc used. SEM/EDX analyses showed that asbestos fibers, quartz, and toxic metal particulates were below the limits of detection in the original talc powder. However, fibers with aspect ratios ≥3:1 accounted for 22% of instilled material, mostly as fibrous talc. Talc (based on Mg/Si atomic weight % ratio) was the most abundant chemical signature, and magnesium silicates with various other elements made up the remainder. BAL cell counts confirmed the presence of acute inflammation, which followed intratracheal instillation. Measurements of cell associated birefringent particles phagocytosis revealed significant differences among talc, granite, and control exposures with high initial uptake of talc compared to granite, but over the 14-day experiment, talc phagocytosis by lavaged cells was significantly less than that of granite. Phagocytosis of talc fibers by macrophages was observed, and birefringent particles were found in macrophages, neutrophils, and multinucleate giant cells in lavaged cells from talc-exposed animals. Our data support the contention that talc, even without asbestos and other known toxic contaminants, may elicit inflammation and contribute to lung disease. Our findings support the conclusions of (Beck et al. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 87:222-34, 1987) study. By analyzing particulate exposures with polarized light microscopy and SEM/EDX, fibrous talc was identified and a distinctive pattern of impaired particulate ingestion was demonstrated.


Erika Sato, Sandra A McDonald, Yuwei Fan, Shaina Peterson, Joseph D Brain, John J Godleski. Analysis of particles from hamster lungs following pulmonary talc exposures: implications for pathogenicity. Particle and fibre toxicology. 2020 Jun 04;17(1):20

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PMID: 32498698

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