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Presentation Time: 9:50-10:10
Home University: North Carolina Central University
Research Mentor: Ilona Jaspers, Toxicology and Environmental Medicine
Program: 21st Century Environmental Health Scholars
Research Title: Plastic Burn Pit Emissions Generated from Flaming and Smoldering Temperatures Induce Variable Toxicity on Human Nasal Epithelial Cells

Burn pits are areas utilized for military waste disposal through open air combustion. This system was common in Afghanistan and Iraq, where in 2014, almost 60,000 pounds of solid waste was burned daily. Exposure to these emissions may damage respiratory tissues and increase one’s susceptibility to lung and airway diseases. We hypothesized that emissions from combusting plastic, a major components of burn pit materials, would be cytotoxic to human nasal epithelial cells (HNECs) in vivo, and that incineration temperature would affect biological outcomes. Military-grade plastic materials were burned at smoldering (500°C) or flaming (640°C) temperatures in a quartz tube furnace system and collected as condensates in a series of cryotraps. Primary HNECs differentiated at air-liquid interface and 16HBEs were treated with smoldering and flaming plastic condensates at concentrations from 5-20 μg/cm2 on the apical side for 4 hours. Markers of inflammation including IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-8, IL-13, IL-4, IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-p70 were assessed in basolateral supernatants. Our data indicate that regardless of temperature, emissions from incineration of plastic increase markers of inflammation. Specifically, emissions from burning plastics significantly increased IL-8, IL-1β and IL-6 at various concentrations and temperatures. Other markers of inflammation, although not significant, were all increased by emissions from burning plastic material. These results revealed that inhalation of emissions of burning plastic increases markers of inflammation in human respiratory cells.