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Chem Cent J. 2013 Sep 13;7(1):154. doi: 10.1186/1752-153X-7-154.

Bioaccumulation and ecotoxicity of carbon nanotubes.

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  • 1National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkallé 105, Copenhagen Ø, DK-2100, Denmark. pja@nrcwe.dk.


Carbon nanotubes (CNT) have numerous industrial applications and may be released to the environment. In the aquatic environment, pristine or functionalized CNT have different dispersion behavior, potentially leading to different risks of exposure along the water column. Data included in this review indicate that CNT do not cross biological barriers readily. When internalized, only a minimal fraction of CNT translocate into organism body compartments. The reported CNT toxicity depends on exposure conditions, model organism, CNT-type, dispersion state and concentration. In the ecotoxicological tests, the aquatic organisms were generally found to be more sensitive than terrestrial organisms. Invertebrates were more sensitive than vertebrates. Single-walled CNT were found to be more toxic than double-/multi-walled CNT. Generally, the effect concentrations documented in literature were above current modeled average environmental concentrations. Measurement data are needed for estimation of environmental no-effect concentrations. Future studies with benchmark materials are needed to generate comparable results. Studies have to include better characterization of the starting materials, of the dispersions and of the biological fate, to obtain better knowledge of the exposure/effect relationships.

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