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Sea spray aerosols contain the major component of human lung surfactant
Van Acker, E.; De Rijcke, M.; Liu, Z.; Asselman, J.; De Schamphelaere, K.A.C.; Vanhaecke, L.; Janssen, C.R. (2021). Sea spray aerosols contain the major component of human lung surfactant. Environ. Sci. Technol. 55(23): 15989-16000.
In: Environmental Science and Technology. American Chemical Society: Easton. ISSN 0013-936X; e-ISSN 1520-5851, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    sea spray aerosols; sea surface microlayer; dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC); potential human health effects; airborne exposure; UHPLC-HRMS

Authors  Top 
  • De Schamphelaere, K.A.C., more
  • Vanhaecke, L., more
  • Janssen, C.R., more

    Marine phytoplankton influence the composition of sea spray aerosols (SSAs) by releasing various compounds. The biogenic surfactant dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) is known to accumulate in the sea surface microlayer, but its aerosolization has never been confirmed. We conducted a 1 year SSA sampling campaign at the Belgian coast and analyzed the SSA composition. We quantified DPPC at a median and maximum air concentration of 7.1 and 33 pg m–3, respectively. This discovery may be of great importance for the field linking ocean processes to human health as DPPC is the major component of human lung surfactant and is used as excipient in medical aerosol therapy. The natural airborne exposure to DPPC seems too low to induce direct human health effects but may facilitate the effects of other marine bioactive compounds. By analyzing various environmental variables in relation to the DPPC air concentration, using a generalized linear model, we established that wave height is a key environmental predictor and that it has an inverse relationship. We also demonstrated that DPPC content in SSAs is positively correlated with enriched aerosolization of Mg2+ and Ca2+. In conclusion, our findings are not only important from a human health perspective but they also advance our understanding of the production and composition of SSAs.

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