Nanotechnology and nanoparticles have pervaded all spheres of life. While these extremely tiny particles invisible to the naked eye have numerous benefits that enhance the properties of products, very little is known about the possible detrimental effects of nanoparticles on health and environment when they are released into the environment from discarded products.
This is mainly due to the difficulty in tracing nanoparticles as conventional examination methods are not suitable at that scale.
Norwegian researchers have devised a method of tracing nanoparticles by making them radioactive. The project is a part of the program undertaken by the Research Council of Norway for Norwegian Environmental Research towards 2015.
For the study, earthworms were given horse dung consisting of cobalt, silver and uranium nanoparticles as feed. The team was able to gain insight into the assimilation and accumulation pattern of nanoparticles by studying the distribution of radioactivity. Similar experiments were also conducted on fishes where it was found that certain nanoparticles are toxic for fishes and result in gill failure and eventually death. This is a cause for worry as nanosilver is employed in washing machines in many countries. Washing clothes will release these silver nanoparticles in the water drains.
The researchers also gained new information on long term impact of nanoparticles on soil as a result of their tendency to break down by releasing ions slowly over an extended period of time. This means that pollution of the environment by nanoparticles is a drawn-out process. The findings of the research have attracted the interest of many countries.