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Nat Nanotechnol. 2009 Jul;4(7):441-4. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2009.157. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Transfer of gold nanoparticles from the water column to the estuarine food web.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA.


Within the next five years the manufacture of large quantities of nanomaterials may lead to unintended contamination of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The unique physical, chemical and electronic properties of nanomaterials allow new modes of interaction with environmental systems that can have unexpected impacts. Here, we show that gold nanorods can readily pass from the water column to the marine food web in three laboratory-constructed estuarine mesocosms containing sea water, sediment, sea grass, microbes, biofilms, snails, clams, shrimp and fish. A single dose of gold nanorods (65 nm length x 15 nm diameter) was added to each mesocosm and their distribution in the aqueous and sediment phases monitored over 12 days. Nanorods partitioned between biofilms, sediments, plants, animals and sea water with a recovery of 84.4%. Clams and biofilms accumulated the most nanoparticles on a per mass basis, suggesting that gold nanorods can readily pass from the water column to the marine food web.

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