Acute and Developmental Toxicity of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles in Fish and Frogs

EPA Grant Number: R832842
Title: Acute and Developmental Toxicity of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles in Fish and Frogs
Investigators: Theodorakis, Christopher , Carraway, Elizabeth , Cobb, George
Institution: Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville , Clemson University , Towson University
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: October 24, 2005 through October 24, 2008
Project Amount: $375,000
RFA: Exploratory Research: Nanotechnology Research Grants Investigating Environmental and Human Health Effects of Manufactured Nanomaterials: A Joint Research Solicitation - EPA, NSF, NIOSH (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health , Safer Chemicals , Nanotechnology


The objectives of this research are to determine the environmental hazard associated with selected metal oxide nanoparticles (Fe2O3, ZnO, CuO, and TiO2) in terms of acute and chronic toxicity to fathead minnows (Pimephase promelas) and the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). The hypotheses are that nanoparticle exposure will affect the survival, growth, development, egg hatchability, and metamorphosis of these organisms in a dose-dependent fashion, and differences in relative toxicity (LC50, EC50, NOEC, LOEC) of these nanoparticles coincide with the relative toxicity of their soluble salts or oxides.


Fathead minnows and frogs will be exposed to metal oxide nanoparticles during 96 hour acute toxicity and developmental toxicity tests. Chronic tests will include 28 day early life stage tests (starting with in 24 to post fertilization) for minnows and 10 week exposures (hatch until metamorphosis completion) for Xenopus. Endpoints will include survival, growth, percent hatch, developmental abnormalities, and rate of metamorphosis (for Xenopus). Acute toxicity (growth, survival) endpoints will be reported as LC50s, chronic toxicity endpoints will be reported as EC50s, NOECs and LOECs. Nanoparticles will be kept in suspension in the water using aeration- or peristaltic pump-induced water currents (i.e., minimizing settling of nanoparticles). Mixing of aged and fresh nanoparticles in test solutions will be minimized using flow-through systems. Physiochemical characterization of nanoparticles before and during tests will be carried out by atomic force and electron microscopic methods. Metal concentrations will be monitored in water and tissues by means of atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Nanoparticles will be synthesized chemically at Clemson University.

Expected Results:

It is expected that the nanoparticles will increase mortality and developmental abnormalities in fish and frogs, and decrease growth rates, rates of metamorphosis, and hatchability. Calculation of LC50s and EC50s for acute and developmental toxicity is of benefit because these chemicals have the potential for widespread release into aquatic environments, either due to large scale manufacture or use or to applications in decontamination of ground water and waste streams. However, little, if anything, is known about their potential hazard in aquatic environments. The LC50s and EC50s would allow ecological risk assessment of these particles at an early stage in the development of this technology. It should be noted that, even if none of these nanoparticles show any affect on minnow or frog larvae, this would still be useful information.

Supplemental Keywords:

water, animal, ecosystem, aquatic, biology, Southwest,, Health, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Environmental Chemistry, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Biochemistry, Risk Assessment, nanochemistry, bioavailability, animal model, nanotechnology, nanomaterials, animal bioassays, nanoparticle toxicity, exposure assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • Final