The respiratory bio-accessibility of a substance is the fraction that is soluble in the respiratory environment and is available for absorption. In the case of respiratory exposure the amount of absorbed substance plays a main role in the biological effects. Extensive bio-accessibility studies have always been an essential requirement for a better understanding of the biological effects of different workplace aerosols, such as welding fumes. Fumes generated using three different welding techniques, manual metal arc (MMA) welding, metal inert gas (MIG) welding, and tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding were investigated in the present study. Each technique was used for stainless steel welding. Welding fumes were collected on PVC membrane filters in batches of 114 using a multiport air sampler. Three different fluids were applied for the solubility study: deionised water and two kinds of lung fluid simulants: lung epithelial lining fluid simulant (Gamble's solution) and artificial lung lining fluid simulant (Hatch's solution). In order to obtain sufficient data to study the tendencies in solubility change with time, seven different leaching periods were used (0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 24 h), each of them with three replicates. The effect of dissolution temperature was also studied. The total amounts of selected metals in the three different welding fumes were determined after microwave-assisted digestion with the mixture of aqua regia and hydrofluoric acid. The most obvious observation yielded by the results is that the solubility of individual metals varies greatly depending on the welding technique, the composition of the leaching fluid and leaching time. This study shows that the most reasonable choice as a media for the bio-assessment of solubility might be Hatch's solution by a dissolution time of 24 h.
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