The development of antibacterial coatings is of great interest from both industry and the consumer's point of view. In this study, we characterized tanned leather and polyurethane leatherette, typically employed in the automotive and footwear industries, which were modified by photo-deposition of antibacterial silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). Material surface chemical composition was investigated in detail by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The material's antibacterial capability was checked against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, as representative microorganisms in cross transmissions. Due to the presence of silver in a nanostructured form, nanosafety issues were considered, as well. Ionic release in contact media, as well as whole nanoparticle release from treated materials, were quantitatively evaluated, thus providing specific information on potential product nanotoxicity, which was further investigated through cytocompatibility MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assays, also after surface abrasion of the materials. The proved negligible nanoparticle release, as well as the controlled release of antibacterial ions, shed light on the materials' potentialities, in terms of both high activity and safety.
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