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Nanotechnology

Scientists reveal the impact of nanoparticles on ecosystems and organisms, as well as new uses for energy production, industry, and science.

Microbiology

Environmental Toxicology

Browse samples of USGS research about nanotechnology and environmental toxicology. For related links, see Related Links and References at the bottom of page.


Silver Bioaccumulation dynamics in a Freshwater Invertebrate
Digital images of isotopically modified CuO nanoparticles in various media (deionised water (DW), fresh water (FW), estuarine water (EW), sea water (SW) and cell culture media (CCM)).

TEM image and size distribution for (a) citrate capped Ag nanoparticles and (b) humic-acid capped silver nanoparticles photo credit: S. K. Misra.

USGS researchers showed that silver form, exposure route, and capping agent influence Ag bioaccumulation dynamics in a freshwater invertebrate. Silver from all forms was efficiently accumulated after either aqueous or dietary exposure, although uptake rates were faster for ionic silver than for nanosilver. In the diet, Ag NPs damaged digestion. Snails ate less and inefficiently processed the ingested food, which adversely impacted their growth. Ingestion of Ag associated with particulate materials appears as the most important vector of uptake. Nanosilver exposure from food might trigger important environmental risks. For further information contact Marie-Noële Croteau.

Croteau, M.-N., Misra, S.K., Luoma, S.N., & Valsami-Jones, E. 2011. Silver bioaccumulation dynamics in a freshwater invertebrate after aqueous and dietary exposures to nanosized and ionic Ag. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45: 6600-6607.

Synthesis of Isotopically Modified Nanoparticles
TEM image and size distribution for (a) citrate capped Ag nanoparticles and (b) humic-acid capped silver nanoparticles photo credit: S. K. Misra.

Digital images of isotopically modified CuO nanoparticles in various media (deionised water (DW), fresh water (FW), estuarine water (EW), sea water (SW) and cell culture media (CCM)). photo credit: S.K. Misra.

Researchers conducted research on synthesis of isotopically modified nanoparticles. The extreme sensitivity of the stable isotope tracing technique allowed determining uptake at exposure concentrations equivalent to background metal concentrations in freshwater systems. Without a tracer, detection of newly accumulated Cu or Zn, for example, would only be possible at exposure concentrations that would far exceed environmentally relevant scenarios. For further information contact: Superb Misra or Marie-Noële Croteau.

Dybowska, A.D., Croteau, M.-N., Misra, S.K., Bernahu, D., Luoma, S.N., Christian P., O’Brian, P. & Valsami-Jones, E. 2011. The Synthesis of Isotopically Modified ZnO Nanoparticles Allows Tracing Their Fate in Biota. Environmental Pollution, 159: 266-273.

S.K., Dybowska, A., Berhanu, D., Croteau, M.-N., Luoma, S.N., Boccaccini, A.R. & Valsami-Jones, E. 2012. Traceable nanoparticles: Isotopically modified 65CuO nanoparticles. Environ. Sci. Technol. In press.

Toxicity of Engineered Nanomaterials (ENM) to Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems
Benthic diatoms (Nitzschia palea) covered with Zinc Oxide nanoparticles

Benthic diatoms (Nitzschia palea) covered with Zinc Oxide nanoparticles

The pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)

The pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)

USGS scientists are studying the linkages between contaminant bioavailability and toxicity, especially in aquatic organisms exposed to metals and metallo-nanomaterials through solution and diet. The intent is to improve understanding of the physiological and geochemical processes influencing bioaccumulation and toxicity. Researchers are developing and refining methodologies that employ enriched stable isotope tracers and biodynamic modeling to quantify responses of organisms to metal-stresses. Specifically, experiments are conducted to investigate the relationships between contaminant exposure and bioaccumulation, as well as between contaminant fluxes and toxicity. Parameterization of species-specific and metal-specific processes (e.g., feeding rates, assimilation efficiencies, loss and detoxification rates) allows predicting the risks and effects of metals and metallo-nanomaterials exposure. Follow up research, scientists used isotopically modified 67ZnO particles to show that Zn from nano-sized ZnO is as bioavailable as Zn internalized by diatoms. In the diet, ZnO nanoparticles damage digestion, although it was not clear whether the toxicity was due to the high Zn dose achieved with nanoparticles or to the ZnO nanoparticles themselves. Further study of exposure from nanoparticles in food would greatly benefit assessment of ecological and human health risks.

For more information contact Marie-Noële Croteau.

Dybowska, A.D., Croteau, M.-N., Misra, S.K., Bernahu, D., Luoma, S.N., Christian P., O’Brian, P. & Valsami-Jones, E. 2011. The Synthesis of Isotopically Modified ZnO Nanoparticles Allows Tracing Their Fate in Biota. Nanotoxicology. 5(1): 79-90.

Toxicity of Engineered Nanomaterials (ENM) to Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems
Carbon nanotubes in the digestive tract and outer surface of an amphipod after a water-only exposure. Photo provided by Joseph Mwangi, University of Missouri
Carbon nanotubes in the digestive tract and outer surface of an amphipod after a water-only exposure. Photo provided by Joseph Mwangi, University of Missouri
Cellular level changes (clubbing, congestion, shortening lamella) on the gills of fathead minnows exposed to stearate-coated titanium dioxide were consistent with signs of physical stress. Photo provided by Diana Papoulias, USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center
Cellular level changes (clubbing, congestion, shortening of lamella) in gills of fathead minnows exposed to stearate-coated titanium dioxide were consistent with signs of physical stress. Photo provided by Diana Papoulias, USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center
Image Gallery

The USGS Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) is interested in the toxicological effects of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) to flora and fauna.  Although ENM have been suggested for broad use in medical applications, soil and water remediation, and military applications, information on where, what, and how to measure these materials once in the environment and their effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is not available.  The USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center is currently involved in projects related to the chemical toxicity of metal oxide and carbon-based nanoparticles. In one study, fathead minnows were exposed to stearate-coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles to determine effects at various levels of biological organization including organismal (mortality), cellular (gill histopathology), and molecular (gene expression).  Collaborators on this project include EcoArray, Inc., the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and Johnson & Johnson.  In another study, the toxicity of silicon carbide nanowires to sediment-dwelling invertebrates in water and sediment exposures was examined in collaboration with the University of Missouri, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Manuscripts for these studies are being developed.

For more information contact Jo Ellen Hinck, Columbia Environmental Research Center.

Related Links and References

National Nanotechnology Initiative

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