Indium lung disease – emerging occupational hazard caused by toxic particles

Beneficial technologies can have a dark side. (See our blogs on 3D printing and ultra-fine particles in dental practices and maker spaces.)

Electronic devices – phones, tablets, laptops – that keep us informed and entertained are likely to contain indium- tin oxide (ITO).


Indium is a shiny metal typically found with deposits of other substances, such as zinc and tin.

ITO is a major component of transparent, conductive coatings for touch screens, liquid crystal displays and solar panels.

It won’t hurt you, the user, but it may harm the people who manipulate ITO when they make substances that form electro-chemical components in our favorite devices.

Recent Research

NIOSH recently issued a short video about new research on indium lung disease. So we read the research:

Cytotoxicity and Characterization of Particles Collected from an Indium-tin Oxide Production Facility in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

Notable points in the paper:

  • Health hazards within a process varies from step to step within that process.

Our take: Choosing the wrong process step to investigate for hazards is both possible and potentially misleading. Consult an industrial hygienist.

  • Particles before and after processing may present different degrees of hazard to different mechanisms within the body. The authors note, “The process of sinteringSinter definition appears to increase the toxicity of these particles”.
  • The respiratory hazards associated with some particles may be indirect. For example, rather than directly damage the lungs’ alveoli, they may damage macrophages, the immune system’s mechanism that engulfs foreign substances to digest them. This may cause proteins to accumulate in the alveoli of the lungs and a feeling of breathlessness.

We scold because we care

Indium lung disease is often described as a new occupational disorder.

We are aware that respiratory protection is not always the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with new technologies and processes.

Yet, our understanding of health and safety in the presence of manufactured substances is littered with products once thought safe but, over time, were proved dangerous. Can you say asbestos? How about chemotherapy fumes?

Not like a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ cough

Respiratory diseases may take a long time to manifest themselves.

Whether welder or jewelry artist or electronics worker, we’re pretty sure no workers will remember what they were working on when they inhaled the particle or fume that overcame their bodies’ defenses.

So, yes, when it comes to respiratory protection, we take it very seriously.

Just because you can’t see particles and fumes, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself from them.

We want you to be a productive citizen of the world for a very long time.

Give us a call

If you’re setting up a new process or using products new to you, and you want to explore your ventilation options, please give us a call at 800.799.4609.

Or you can email us at You can also use the comments sections of our web site and blog site to message us.



Indium Lung Disease

Cytotoxicity and Characterization of Particles Collected From an Indium–Tin Oxide Production Facility, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Volume 77, Issue 20, 2014

Project, then protect