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Waste Manag. 2009 Sep;29(9):2587-95. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2009.04.001. Epub 2009 May 7.

Nanoparticles: their potential toxicity, waste and environmental management.

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  • 1Isotope Laboratory, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, Miecznikowa 1, 02-096 Warsaw, Poland.


This literature review discusses specific issues related to handling of waste containing nanomaterials. The aims are (1) to highlight problems related to uncontrolled release of nanoparticles to the environment through waste disposal, and (2) to introduce the topics of nanowaste and nanotoxicology to the waste management community. Many nanoparticles used by industry contain heavy metals, thus toxicity and bioaccumulation of heavy metals contained in nanoparticles may become important environmental issues. Although bioavailability of heavy metals contained in nanoparticles can be lower than those present in soluble form, the toxicity resulting from their intrinsic nature (e.g. their size, shape or density) may be significant. An approach to the treatment of nanowaste requires understanding of all its properties--not only chemical, but also physical and biological. Progress in nanowaste management also requires studies of the environmental impact of the new materials. The authors believe Amara's law is applicable to the impact of nanotechnologies, and society might overestimate the short-term effects of these technologies, while underestimating the long-term effects. It is necessary to have basic information from companies about the level and nature of nanomaterials produced or emitted and about the expectation of the life cycle time of nanoproducts as a basis to estimate the level of nanowaste in the future. Without knowing how companies plan to use and store recycled and nonrecycled nanomaterials, development of regulations is difficult. Tagging of nanoproducts is proposed as a means to facilitate separation and recovery of nanomaterials.

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