More than a third of the world’s population relies on solid fuels for cooking and heating, with major health consequences. Although solid fuel combustion emissions are known to increase the prevalence of illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, however, their effect on the eyes is underexplored. This study assesses the acute toxicity of solid fuel combustion emissions on healthy ocular cells and a cancer cell line. Three healthy ocular cell lines (corneal, lens, and retinal epithelial cells) and a cancer cell line (Chinese hamster ovary cells) were exposed to liquid and gas phase emissions from applewood and coal combustion. Following the exposure, real-time cell attachment behavior was monitored for at least 120 hours with electrical cell impedance spectroscopy. The viability of the cells, amount of apoptotic cells, and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) were quantified with MTT, ApoTox-Glo, and ROS-Glo H 2 O 2 assays, respectively. The results showed that coal emissions compromised the viability of ocular cells more than applewood emissions. Interestingly, the cancer cells, although their viability was not compromised, generated 1.7 to 2.7 times more ROS than healthy cells. This acute exposure study provides compelling proof that biomass combustion emissions compromise the viability of ocular cells and increase ROS generation. The increased ROS generation was fatal for ocular cells, but it promoted the growth of cancer cells.
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