Editorial Feature

Consequences of Nanotechnologies on the Environment and the Food Chain

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Factors such as the variances in shape, size, chemical composition, and surface area may influence human health. However, the probable environmental and health impact must be evaluated for each type of nanomaterial.

A number of studies have revealed that very similar compounds may trigger different effects. For example, engineered nanomaterials could have an impact on different potential risks related to the environment.

Substances Toxic to Cells

Based on the exposure level, all substances can be lethal to cells. The more critical question is to characterize the anticipated concentrations of engineered nanoparticles that may be found in water, air, and soil.

In recent times, it has been observed that four forms of nanoparticles could probably have destructive effects on the environment: dispersed nanoparticles as they stay in the environment, aggregated, adsorbed with other substances, or taken up by cells.

Nanomaterial Fate and Transport in the Environment

For example, a study titled “Nanomaterial Fate and Transport in the Environment” from CBEN – Rice University has investigated the behavior of nanomaterials in the atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere, with specific attention to interactions with other chemical species: organic and inorganic pollutant adsorption with carbon nanotubes and titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, as well as the effect of these nano-sized materials on nucleation of natural inorganic parts of water.

Transport and Aggregation of Nanoparticles

Carrying forward from this point, scientists will work on conveyance and aggregation of nanoparticles and their interactions with biological systems, such as bacteria, and the influence of the dispersion of nano-sized materials in the environment.

The small size of nanoparticles could result in better mobility. However, not much is known about the fate, conveyance, and transformation of nano-sized materials after they enter the environment. Presently, no one is aware if they are toxic, or if they may become toxic within months or years. Therefore, these nano-elements may be non-biodegradable pollutants.

Size Matters Exacerbate Harmful Effects

With nanomaterials, size matters could promote and exacerbate any detrimental effects caused by the composition of the material. For instance, TiO2 is usually a non-reactive substance used in a number of products, such as house paints or skin lotions. But it is progressively being made in nano-sized particles, and tests reveal that these TiO2 nanoparticles are highly reactive, producing “hot” free radicals that can burn up bacteria. Therefore, some specialists are concerned about its effects on soil ecology if the particles are released.

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