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Chemosphere. 2011 Mar;82(10):1387-92. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.11.069. Epub 2010 Dec 30.

Biodegradability of organic nanoparticles in the aqueous environment.

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Material Resources, Institute of Environmental Chemistry, Leuphana University Lüneburg, DE-21335 Lüneburg, Germany.


Synthetic nanoparticles have already been detected in the aquatic environment. Therefore, knowledge on their biodegradability is of utmost importance for risk assessment but such information is currently not available. Therefore, the biodegradability of fullerenes, single, double, multi-walled as well as COOH functionalized carbon nanotubes and cellulose and starch nanocrystals in aqueous environment has been investigated according to OECD standards. The biodegradability of starch and cellulose nanoparticles was also compared with the biodegradability of their macroscopic counterparts. Fullerenes and all carbon nanotubes did not biodegrade at all, while starch and cellulose nanoparticles biodegrade to similar levels as their macroscopic counterparts. However, neither comfortably met the criterion for ready biodegradability (60% after 28 days). The cellulose and starch nanoparticles were also found to degrade faster than their macroscopic counterparts due to their higher surface area. These findings are the first report of biodegradability of organic nanoparticles in the aquatic environment, an important accumulation environment for manmade compounds.

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