Whole-body inhalation of nano-sized carbon black: a surrogate model of military burn pit exposure

Janeen H. Trembley, Simon W. So, Joshua P. Nixon, Elizabeth C. Bowdridge, Krista L. Garner, Julie Griffith, Kevin J. Engles, Thomas P. Batchelor, William T. Goldsmith, Julie M. Tomáška, Salik Hussain, Timothy R. Nurkiewicz, Tammy A. Butterick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Chronic multisymptom illness (CMI) is an idiopathic disease affecting thousands of U.S. Veterans exposed to open-air burn pits emitting aerosolized particulate matter (PM) while serving in Central and Southwest Asia and Africa. Exposure to burn pit PM can result in profound biologic consequences including chronic fatigue, impaired cognition, and respiratory diseases. Dysregulated or unresolved inflammation is a possible underlying mechanism for CMI onset. We describe a rat model of whole-body inhalation exposure using carbon black nanoparticles (CB) as a surrogate for military burn pit-related exposure. Using this model, we measured biomarkers of inflammation in multiple tissues. Results: Male Sprague Dawley rats were exposed to CB aerosols by whole body inhalation (6 ± 0.83 mg/m3). Proinflammatory biomarkers were measured in multiple tissues including arteries, brain, lung, and plasma. Biomarkers of cardiovascular injury were also assayed in plasma. CB inhalation exposure increased CMI-related proinflammatory biomarkers such as IFN-γ and TNFα in multiple tissue samples. CB exposure also induced cardiovascular injury markers (adiponectin, MCP1, sE-Selectin, sICam-1 and TIMP1) in plasma. These findings support the validity of our animal exposure model for studies of burn pit-induced CMI. Future studies will model more complex toxicant mixtures as documented at multiple burn pit sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number275
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the following sources: National Institutes of Health R01 ES015022 (TRN), R01 ES031253 (SH), Department of Veterans Affairs I01 BX004146 (TAB), Center for Veterans Research & Education (TAB), Burn Pits 360 Veterans Organization (TAB and JMT) and WV-CTSI U54 GM104942-05 (ECB).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Burn Pit Exposure
  • Carbon Black
  • Chronic Multisymptom Illness
  • Cytokines
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Inflammation
  • Inhalation toxicology
  • Nanoparticle


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