Nanotoxicology | Environmental hazards of nanoparticles

Nanotoxicology is the study to determine the toxicity of nanoparticles that at which extent they are harmful to the environment. There are a number of nanoparticles that have an adverse effect on the environment.

The properties of nanoparticles like size, surface area, shape, surface charge, coating and their solubility in water as well as environmental factors like pH, temperature, salinity and organic matter influence the behavior of nanoparticles.

These factors also determine the transport and ultimately toxicity of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are being used in many applications which include industry, pharmacy, science, electronics and communication products.

The use of nanoparticles is 30-fold increases. According to a global market, the estimate is $1 trillion. Carbon and silver are those nanoparticles that show the fastest and largest growth all over the world.

There adverse effect on humans and the environment is being increased dramatically. A lot of reviews have been reported on the toxicity of many nanoparticles. However, there are many which are still unknown.

Nanoparticles are actually substances that have at least one dimension of 1-100 nanometer in length. Their unique chemical and physical properties have made nanoparticles useful in many applications. However, these properties can also be potentially toxic.

The toxicity of nanoparticles becomes increased when they are introduced into aquatic environments. They can be uptake by the aquatic organism and becomes accumulated into their bodies.

The properties of nanoparticle like size, shape  and coating and also the water chemistry likeability to dissolve organic carbon, ionic strength, temperature and pH influence the extent to which nanoparticles can remain in suspension, partition to dissolve organic carbon in the water column from aggregate or it can be absorb suspended particles.

The accumulation of nanoparticles in aquatic organisms is dependent on their uptake and their elimination out of the organism. Nanoparticles have created a large threat to aquatic organism. Their accumulation in the body of the organism has a lot of adverse effects on their maintenance.

Properties of nanoparticles

There are unique properties of nanomaterial which are different from other materials. The toxicity of nanomaterial is stimulated by their size, charge and surface areas, solubility,  the structure also. The magnetic thermal, optical, electrical, mechanical properties of nanoparticles make them suitable in many applications which include electronics, medicine, energy productions and also in several consumer products.

However these properties of nanomaterial have an adverse effect on human beings and environments. the nanoparticle has the ability to penetrate through the cell membrane and other biological barriers and cause the cell damage. The toxicity of nanoparticles is more than their bulk particles. It is generally assumed that nanoparticles have more ability to cause damage.

Examples of nanoparticle which are generally found

  • Zinc
  •  Gold
  • titanium
  •  silver
  • nickel
  •  cadmium
  •  carbon
  •  grapheme
  •  fullerene

Introduction of nanomaterial in the aquatic environment

There are a lot of routes by which nanomaterials can be introduced into aquatic environments. wastewater treatments of plants are the major source of aquatic toxicity. The water of industries is releasing into the ocean, river, and lakes and destroys life there. 

There are a lot of nanoparticles that are present in such water. When aquatic organisms such water they become badly affected. Nanoparticle becomes accumulated into their bodies. These particles can also adhere to algae and travel to the bottom. The aggregated nanoparticle can be settled down into the sediments and have great adverse effect on the benthic organisms.

These benthic organisms can be utilized as food for fishes and then these fishes can effect due to this nanoparticle present in the benthos. In an aquatic organism the major route to the entry of nanomaterial is through ingestion or direct through gills.

Mostly in invertebrates, the cellular immune system, the epithelium of gut and the pancreas are targeted.

Nanoparticle are taken by ingestion through the digestive tract may be accumulated in the hepatopancreas. Hepatopancrase is responsible for detoxification and also responsible for intracellular lysosomal digestion of food by the process of endocytosis. Nanoparticles can also enter into the liver of fishes.

Effect of nanotoxicology on human beings

Nanoparticles have diverse effect on human beings.  Due to the increase in the human population the usage of vehicles has been increased. The usage of petroleum in vehicles released smoke.

The environment becomes polluted by this smoke. A lot of nanoparticles are present in it which are inhaled by human beings. The human population can be affected by dust particles, smoke, and polluted environments. From the air they enter into the lungs of human beings through the respiratory tract and affect the lungs of humans. They cause problems in respiration and can be accumulated into the lungs.

These aggregated nanoparticles. then enter into the circulatory system and affect on the circulatory system. followings of the problems can be created in human beings.

  •  Lungs problem
  •  Mental retardation
  •  Skin cancer
  •  Eyes infection

Human beings used beauty products in which there are a lot of nanoparticles which have great dangerous effect.  Nanoparticles are also being used in pharmacy. Thus the waste products of such industries contain a large number of such nanomaterials.

Safety measure regarding nano-toxic particles

 The vehicles should be repaired which release smoke

 Public vehicles should be preferred on private vehicles

 The workers in industries should use gloves and masks because nanoparticles can easily penetrate through the skin.

 Less use of beauty products

Waste material should be disposed of properly  

Reviewed by:
Dr. Muhammad Adnan Asghar (Ph.D.)

Chinese Academy of Sciences Fuzhou, Fujian

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