Settled iron-based road dust and its characteristics and possible association with detection in human tissues

  • Kristina Čabanová
  • Kamila Hrabovská
  • Petra Matějková
  • Kateřina Dědková
  • Vladimír Tomášek
  • Jana Dvořáčková
  • Jana Kukutschová
Research Article


Settled road dust was examined to detect the presence of non-airborne submicron and nano-sized iron-based particles and to characterize these particles. Samples were collected from a road surface near a busy road junction in the city of Ostrava, Czech Republic, once a month from March to October. The eight collected samples were subjected to a combination of experimental techniques including elemental analysis, Raman microspectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis, and magnetometry. The data thereby obtained confirmed the presence of non-agglomerated spherical nano-sized iron-based particles, with average sizes ranging from 2 down to 490 nm. There are several sources in road traffic which generate road dust particles, including exhaust and non-exhaust processes. Some of them (e.g., brake wear) produce iron as the dominant metallic element. Raman microspectroscopy revealed forms of iron (mainly as oxides, Fe2O3, and mixtures of Fe2O3 and Fe3O4). Moreover, Fe3O4 was also detected in samples of human tissues from the upper and lower respiratory tract. In view of the fact that no agglomeration of those particles was found by SEM, it is supposed that these particles may be easily resuspended and represent a risk to human health due to inhalation exposure, as proved by the detection of particles with similar morphology and phase composition in human tissues.


Iron-based particles Magnetic character Environmental aspects Road traffic Road dust Brake wear 



The authors thank Dr. Oldřich Motyka for statistical analysis of the experimental data and Mr. Chris Hopkinson for language corrections.

Funding information

This study was supported by Project “Characterization and possible environmental risks of synthetic lanthanide oxides nanoparticles and particles from non-combustion processes in traffic” (number SP2018/81) funded by Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, and by the Project “New Composite Materials for Environmental Applications” (number CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/17_048/0007399) funded by ERDF (European Regional Development Fund)/ESF (European Social Fund).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Advanced Innovation TechnologiesVŠB-Technical University of Ostrava,OstravaCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsVŠB-Technical University of OstravaOstravaCzech Republic
  3. 3.Nanotechnology CentreVŠB-Technical University of OstravaOstravaCzech Republic
  4. 4.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OstravaOstravaCzech Republic

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