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Characterization and Cytotoxic Assessment of Ballistic Aerosol Particulates for Tungsten Alloy Penetrators into Steel Target Plates

Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph7093313
  • Article
  • Chemistry
  • Physics


The nature and constituents of ballistic aerosol created by kinetic energy penetrator rods of tungsten heavy alloys (W-Fe-Ni and W-Fe-Co) perforating steel target plates was characterized by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. These aerosol regimes, which can occur in closed, armored military vehicle penetration, are of concern for potential health effects, especially as a consequence of being inhaled. In a controlled volume containing 10 equispaced steel target plates, particulates were systematically collected onto special filters. Filter collections were examined by scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM and TEM) which included energy-dispersive (X-ray) spectrometry (EDS). Dark-field TEM identified a significant nanoparticle concentration while EDS in the SEM identified the propensity of mass fraction particulates to consist of Fe and FeO, representing target erosion and formation of an accumulating debris field. Direct exposure of human epithelial cells (A549), a model for lung tissue, to particulates (especially nanoparticulates) collected on individual filters demonstrated induction of rapid and global cell death to the extent that production of inflammatory cytokines was entirely inhibited. These observations along with comparisons of a wide range of other nanoparticulate species exhibiting cell death in A549 culture may suggest severe human toxicity potential for inhaled ballistic aerosol, but the complexity of the aerosol (particulate) mix has not yet allowed any particular chemical composition to be identified.

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