Natural Layered Silicates (NLS) and Synthetic Layered Silicates (SLS) are a diverse group of clay minerals that have attracted great interest in various branches of industry. However, despite growing demand for this class of material, their impact on human health has not been fully investigated. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the potential toxic effects of a wide range of commercially available SLS and NLS of varying physicochemical properties (lithium (Li) or fluoride (F) content and size). Mouse BALB/c monocyte macrophage (J774A.1) and human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) were chosen as in vitro models of alveolar macrophages. Montmorillonite, hectorite, Medium (med) F/High Li and Low F/Med Li particles, were cytotoxic to cells and induced potent pro-inflammatory responses. The remaining particles (No F/Very (V)Low Li, No F/Med Li, No F/Low Li, High F/Med Li and High F/Med Li washed) were non- to relatively low- cytotoxic and inflammogenic, in both type of cells. In an acellular condition none of the tested samples increased reactive oxygen species (ROS), while ROS generation was observed following exposure to sublethal concentrations of Med F/High Li, Low F/Med Li, montmorillonite and hectorite samples, in J774A.1 cells. Based on the results obtained in this study the toxic potency of tested samples was not associated with lithium or fluoride content, but appeared to be dependent on particle size, with the platelets of larger dimension and lower surface area being more potent than the smaller platelet particles with higher surface area. In addition, the increased bioactivity of Med F/High Li and Low F/Med Li was associated with endotoxin contamination. Obtained results demonstrated that layered silicate materials have different toxicological profiles and suggest that toxicological properties of a specific layered silicate should be investigated on an individual basis.
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