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Extramural Research

Nanoparticle Stability in Natural Waters and its Implication for Metal Toxicity to Water Column and Benthic Organisms

EPA Grant Number: R833324
Title: Nanoparticle Stability in Natural Waters and its Implication for Metal Toxicity to Water Column and Benthic Organisms
Investigators: Ranville, James , Butler, Barbara , Jackson, Brian
Institution: Colorado School of Mines , Dartmouth College
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: April 15, 2007 through April 14, 2011
RFA: Exploratory Research: Nanotechnology Research Grants Investigating Environmental and Human Health Effects of Manufactured Nanomaterials: a Joint Research Solicitation-EPA, NSF, NIOSH, NIEHS (2006)
Research Category: Health Effects , Nanotechnology



The overall hypothesis is that metal-containing manufactured nanomaterials pose an exposure and toxicological risk to aquatic organisms. The toxic ‘species’ may be the nanoparticle or dissolved metal ions liberated following (partial) dissolution. We hypothesize that exposure in the water column will be a function of dissolution rate and aggregation rate of the nanoparticle. Water chemistry is known to strongly influence dissolved metal uptake by organisms, as described by the biotic ligand model. For the (nano)particulate phase, water chemistry plays an additional role in that it greatly influences particle stability and fate (e.g. sedimentation) in surface waters. We further hypothesize that exposure to benthic organisms may occur, after aggregation and settling of nanoparticles, through ingestion of sediment. We propose to address three objectives in this research: 1) determine the stability (against aggregation and dissolution) of nanoparticles as a function of water composition; 2) determine the uptake, distribution, and elimination of metals from dissolved and nanoparticle phases within Daphnia magna organisms under variable water compositions; and 3) determine the uptake, distribution, and elimination of metals from dissolved and aggregated nanoparticle phases within Hyalella azteca organisms under variable water compositions.


We propose to study the uncapped quantum dot (QD) CdSe and the capped CdSe/ZnS QD. We will also study ZnS and ZnO nanoparticles, which could represent partial dissolution products. We will use electron microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, field flow fractionation, enriched stable isotope tracers, high resolution ICP-MS, and synchrotron Xray techniques to fully characterize the nanoparticles in the water column and in the sediment in carefully-controlled laboratory microcosms. We will couple this characterization to bioavailability studies employing commonly used organisms (i.e., Daphnia magna and Hyalella azteca) so that our results with nanoparticles will be directly comparable to toxicity data for the relevant dissolved metals.

Expected Results:

This study will provide important new information on the fate of nanoparticles in surface water. We will provide some needed basic information on the stability of nanoparticles in waters of variable composition. Stability and toxicological results will demonstrate the potential for adverse effects to aquatic ecosystems, when these systems are exposed to QDs through increased use and environmental release.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 40 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 8 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

quantum dots, bioavailability, aggregation, μ-XRF,, Health, Scientific Discipline, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Biochemistry, biological pathways, nanochemistry, bioavailability, nanotechnology, manufactured nanomaterials, nanomaterials, toxicologic assessment, biogeochemistry, cellular response to nanoparticles, nanoparticle toxicity, bioaccumulation, biochemical research

Progress and Final Reports:
2007 Progress Report
Final Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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