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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Mar 15;42(6):1938-43.

Assessing the impact of nanomaterials on anaerobic microbial communities.

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School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-2051, USA.


As the technological benefits of nanotechnology begin to rapidly move from laboratory to large-scale industrial application, release of nanomaterials to the environment is inevitable. Little is known about the fate and effects of nanomaterials in nature. Major environmental receptors of nanomaterials will be soil, sediment, and biosolids from wastewater treatment. Analysis of anaerobic microbial activity and communities provides needed information about the effects of nanoparticles in certain environments. In this study, biosolids from anaerobic wastewater treatment sludge were exposed to fullerene (C60) in order to model an environmentally relevant discharge scenario. Activity was assessed by monitoring production of CO2 and CH4. Changes in community structure were monitored by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), using primer sets targeting the small subunit rRNA genes of Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya. Findings suggest that C60 fullerenes have no significant effect on the anaerobic community over an exposure period of a few months. This conclusion is based on the absence of toxicity indicated by no change in methanogenesis relative to untreated reference samples. DGGE results show no evidence of substantial community shifts due to treatment with C60, in any subset of the microbial community.

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