How dangerous is inhaling vog?

Nano-enabled consumer products surround people every day, from personal care, cosmetics, clothing and electronics, to food and beverage. Here in Hawaii, vog is a big issue.

Experts have found there are 1,814 nano-enabled consumer products, many of which have a potential safety hazard if inhaled. However, their potential biological risks are still largely unknown. That’s according to The Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory maintained by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Molecular dynamics simulations revealed a pulmonary surfactant corona coated on inhaled nano particle. Courtesy: UH Manoa

Now, a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Engineering Professor is helping figure out what’s in those particles and how dangerous it might be to your lungs.

Professor Yi Zuo developed a new method to reveal the molecular mechanism of nano-bio interactions in the lungs. This research was published in the July 2017 issue of the scientific journal ACS Nano.

“Zuo’s study showed once the inhaled nanoparticles enter the lungs, they are quickly wrapped with a biomolecular corona made of the natural pulmonary surfactant… The pulmonary surfactant corona provides the inhaled nanoparticles with a new identity in their subsequent interactions with the biological system, such as their clearance and cellular toxicity,” reads the press release from UH.

“Molecular scale interactions between nanoparticles and biomolecules are too small and too fast to be visualized by most conventional experimental methods,” Zuo explains. “Hence, we studied the nano-bio interactions with a virtual experiment called molecular dynamics simulations. Using supercomputers, we created a virtual box in which a certain number of molecules and particles can move and interact with each other for a certain time by following the natural laws of physics and chemistry. The final equilibrium state of the simulation reveals the molecular mechanism of nano-bio interactions.”

In layman’s terms, what does that mean for you? That Zuo’s research will help scientists figure out just how much of a health risk it is for people to inhale fog, especially to those with existing respiratory conditions and children.

Zuo worked with Professor Guoqing Hu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences with financial support from the National Science Foundation and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. 


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