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Sci Total Environ. 2016 Dec 1;572:852-873. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.145. Epub 2016 Aug 16.

Governing factors affecting the impacts of silver nanoparticles on wastewater treatment.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.
College of Environment and Energy, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510006, PR China.


Silver nanoparticles (nanosilver or AgNPs) enter municipal wastewater from various sources, raising concerns about their potential adverse effects on wastewater treatment processes. We argue that the biological effects of silver nanoparticles at environmentally realistic concentrations (μgL-1 or lower) on the performance of a full-scale municipal water resource recovery facility (WRRF) are minimal. Reactor configuration is a critical factor that reduces or even mutes the toxicity of silver nanoparticles towards wastewater microbes in a full-scale WRRF. Municipal sewage collection networks transform silver nanoparticles into silver(I)-complexes/precipitates with low ecotoxicity, and preliminary/primary treatment processes in front of biological treatment utilities partially remove silver nanoparticles to sludge. Microbial functional redundancy and microbial adaptability to silver nanoparticles also greatly alleviate the adverse effects of silver nanoparticles on the performance of a full-scale WRRF. Silver nanoparticles in a lab-scale bioreactor without a sewage collection system and/or a preliminary/primary treatment process, in contrast to being in a full scale system, may deteriorate the reactor performance at relatively high concentrations (e.g., mgL-1 levels or higher). However, in many cases, silver nanoparticles have minimal impacts on lab-scale bioreactors, such as sequencing batch bioreactors (SBRs), especially when at relatively low concentrations (e.g., less than 1mgL-1). The susceptibility of wastewater microbes to silver nanoparticles is species-specific. In general, silver nanoparticles have higher toxicity towards nitrifying bacteria than heterotrophic bacteria.


Adaptability; Biological treatment; Functional redundancy; Microbial community; Municipal wastewater; Reactor configuration; Silver nanoparticles; Toxicity

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