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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2009 Jan;393(1):81-95. doi: 10.1007/s00216-008-2458-1. Epub 2008 Nov 6.

Ecotoxicity and analysis of nanomaterials in the aquatic environment.

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  • 1Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC), Jordi Girona 18-26, 08034, Barcelona, Spain.


Nanotechnology is a major innovative scientific and economic growth area. However nanomaterial residues may have a detrimental effect on human health and the environment. To date there is a lack of quantitative ecotoxicity data, and recently there has been great scientific concern about the possible adverse effects that may be associated with manufactured nanomaterials. Nanomaterials are in the 1- to 100-nm size range and can be composed of many different base materials (carbon, silicon and metals, such as gold, cadmium and selenium) and they have different shapes. Particles in the nanometer size range do occur both in nature and as a result of existing industrial processes. Nevertheless, new engineered nanomaterials and nanostructures are different because they are being fabricated from the "bottom up". Nanomaterial properties differ compared with those of the parent compounds because about 40-50% of the atoms in nanoparticles (NPs) are on the surface, resulting in greater reactivity than bulk materials. Therefore, it is expected that NPs will have different biological effects than parent compounds. In addition, release of manufactured NPs into the aquatic environment is largely an unknown. The surface properties and the very small size of NPs and nanotubes provide surfaces that may bind and transport toxic chemical pollutants, as well as possibly being toxic in their own right by generating reactive radicals. This review addresses hazards associated and ecotoxicological data on nanomaterials in the aquatic environment. Main weaknesses in ecotoxicological approaches, controversies and future needs are discussed. A brief discussion on the scarce number of analytical methods available to determinate nanomaterials in environmental samples is included.

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