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J Environ Monit. 2011 May;13(5):1195-203. doi: 10.1039/c1em10017c. Epub 2011 Apr 14.

Occurrence and removal of titanium at full scale wastewater treatment plants: implications for TiO2 nanomaterials.

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School of Sustainable Engineering and The Built Environment, Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering Program, Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University, Engineering Center, Tempe, AZ 85287-5306, USA.


Titanium dioxide nanoparticles increasingly will be used in commercial products and have a high likelihood of entering municipal sewage that flows to centralized wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Treated water (effluent) from WWTPs flows into rivers and lakes where nanoparticles may pose an ecological risk. To provide exposure data for risk assessment, titanium concentrations in raw sewage and treated effluent were determined for 10 representative WWTPs that use a range of unit processes. Raw sewage titanium concentrations ranged from 181 to 1233 µg L(-1) (median of 26 samples was 321 µg L(-1)). The WWTPs removed more than 96% of the influent titanium, and all WWTPs had effluent titanium concentrations of less than 25 µg L(-1). To characterize the morphology and presence of titanium oxide nanoparticles in the effluent, colloidal materials were isolated via rota-evaporation, dialysis and lyophilization. High resolution transmission electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray analysis indicated the presence of spherical titanium oxide nanoparticles (crystalline and amorphous) on the order of 4 to 30 nm in diameter in WWTP effluents. This research provides clear evidence that some nanoscale particles will pass through WWTPs and enter aquatic systems and offers a methodological framework for collecting and analyzing titanium-based nanomaterials in complex wastewater matrices.

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