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Engineering nanoparticles in wastewater

Project Number # 2025

The fate of engineered nanoparticles in wastewater: Literature Review

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Background and Relevance

The impact of engineered and naturally-occurring nanoparticles (NPs) on environmental health is presently unclear but of increasing interest to regulators. Work in this area has been hampered by the difficulties in accurately quantifying and characterising nanoparticles in aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric environments, in analysing their environmental and mammalian toxicology, and in determining the particles’ life cycle and environmental fate. However, there have been significant developments in recent years in the fields of nanoparticle detection and measurement which are potentially relevant to this area, although the characterisation of particles in complex matrices such as water, soil and food remains a challenge (Tiede et al. 2008). 

An up-to-date review of relevant measurement and toxicological scientific developments is to be conducted. While there is an abundance of data available for the inhalation toxicology of nanoparticles, the exposure route via drinking water is less explored. This is related to the fact that nanoparticles tend to aggregate in aqueous environments, and this can affect not only testing but also the fate in aqueous systems (Baun et al. 2009). Further, many carbon nanoparticles are poorly soluble in water, and some dispersants which are used to keep them in solution can cause toxic effects themselves (Farré et al. 2009). Consequently, exposure assessment in toxicology test systems remains unsatisfactory. In response to this issue, the review will critically evaluate the validity of the dosing regime and qualification and quantification of exposure concentrations in biological test systems for all of the reviewed toxicological studies.

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