Agricultural area residents in danger of inhaling toxic aerosols

February 03, 2020

Excess selenium from fertilizers and other natural sources can create air pollution that could lead to lung cancer, asthma, and Type 2 diabetes, according to new UC Riverside research.

The research team conducted previous UCR studies in the Salton Sea area, which contains selenium rich wetlands and soils toxic to birds and fish. These' studies also revealed that the area's concentration of aerosols, which are solid or liquid particles suspended in air, have increased in recent years.

However, the full chemical makeup of the aerosols, or whether they would have any effects on humans, remained unknown. This motivated the team to create similar aerosol particles in the laboratory and study them.

The team's new paper, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, details the composition of the selenium-rich aerosols and describes the multiple ways these particles can damage human lungs.

Though the Salton Sea-area aerosols are likely to be unhealthy, UCR Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science Roya Bahreini said people in nearby San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties are likely safe.

"Typically, the air masses from the Salton Sea area don't reach these cities," she said.

According to Bahreini, dangerous aerosols can occur anywhere there's excessive selenium in the soil, making agricultural workers and those living near contaminated soils more vulnerable to illnesses.

Along with naturally occurring selenium in the environment, the excess from manmade sources gets digested by soil microbes and processed by plants. Once excreted, the selenium-containing vapors, which include the compound dimethyl selenide, mix with other airborne chemicals and eventually become the toxic selenium-containing aerosol, which stays in the air for roughly a week.

Selenium in small amounts is important for regulating the immune system. Deficiency can cause thyroid issues, slowed growth, and impaired bone metabolism.

As with most substances, too much can be poisonous. An excess of selenium can lead to swollen lungs, garlic breath, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological damage, and hair loss.

Scientists once believed dimethyl selenide was less toxic than other forms of selenium. In fact, Bahreini said scientists once proposed planting specific grasses in wetlands and soils with excessive amounts of selenium to allow digestion and evaporation of selenium-containing vapors as a way to remediate these sites.

However, earlier mouse studies showed the aerosols can cause lung injury and inflammation in mice. According to Ying-Hsuan Lin, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology at UCR, this newest study also shows how dimethyl selenide can form aerosols and affect humans.

Lin's team tested the aerosols on human lung cells in her laboratory and found they damage the lung's protective barrier.

"If people are exposed to this long enough, or in high enough concentration, they have a greater risk of lung cancer," Lin said. "There is also evidence that the aerosols can cause allergic inflammation of the lungs, and disturb glucose metabolism, which are linked to asthma and Type 2 diabetes."

The team is planning further studies to understand asthma rates that may be linked to the allergic inflammation she observed.

In addition, Lin said it is important to identify other sources of selenium-containing aerosols, as this study only identifies one source.

"We need to control this to improve public health," she said.
-end-


University of California - Riverside

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Diabetes, but not diabetes drug, linked to poor pregnancy outcomes
New research indicates that pregnant women with pre-gestational diabetes who take metformin are at a higher risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes -- such as major birth defects and pregnancy loss -- than the general population, but their increased risk is not due to metformin but diabetes.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.