Fate, Transformation and Toxicity of Manufactured Nanomaterials in Drinking Water

EPA Grant Number: R831713
Title: Fate, Transformation and Toxicity of Manufactured Nanomaterials in Drinking Water
Investigators: Westerhoff, Paul , Crittenden, John C. , Capco, David , Chen, Yongsheng
Institution: Arizona State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2007
Project Amount: $455,000
RFA: Exploratory Research to Anticipate Future Environmental Issues: Impacts of Manufactured Nanomaterials on Human Health and the Environment (2003) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health Effects , Nanotechnology , Health , Safer Chemicals


Although the current market for nanomaterials is small and their concentration may not be high enough in the environment to cause human health or environmental problems, this market is increasing rapidly and the discharge of nanomaterials to environment in the near future could be significant as manufacturing costs decrease and new applications are discovered. The accumulation of nanomaterials in cells may have significant environmental and human impacts. However, at present, very little is known about the fate, transport, transformation and toxicity of these man-made nanomaterials in the environment. The objectives of this project are: 1) to characterize the fundamental properties of nanomaterials in aquatic environments; 2) to examine the interactions between nanomaterials and toxic organic pollutants and pathogens (viruses); 3) to evaluate the removal efficiency of nanomaterials by drinking water unit processes; and 4) to test the toxicity of nanomaterials in drinking water using cell culture model system of the epithelium. This study considers the physical, chemical, and biological implications of nanomaterial fate and toxicity in systems that will provide insight into the potential for nanomaterials to be present and of health concern in finished drinking water.


A multidisciplinary approach is proposed that includes experiments to identify fundamental uniqueness of nine nanomaterial properties and toxicity and quite applied experiments aimed directly at understanding the fate and reactions involving nanomaterials in drinking water treatment plants. Advanced nanomaterial characterization techniques will be employed to determine the size distribution, concentration, and zeta potential of nanomaterials in buffered distilled water and model waters representative of raw drinking water supplies (anions, cations, NOM). Adsorption of dissolve pollutants (anions, metals, range of synthetic organic chemicals) and NOM are proposed to quantify the potential for nanomaterials to transport such compounds and be transformed by the compounds (e.g., aggregation, change in zeta potential). Coagulation processes will be studied by compressing the electric double layer of nanomaterials, and exposing nanomaterials to alum coagulations, using mono- and heterodisperse solutions; comparable filtration work will also be conducted. Adsorption of virus onto nanomaterials and subsequent disinfectant shielding will be studied. Toxicity screening will include toxicity of nanomaterials on several cell lines selected to mimic oral ingestion routes in drinking water.

Expected Results:

The proposed work will provide fundamental information about the fate, transport and transformation of nanomaterials in the drinking water resources and the first evidence that such nanomaterials can or cannot be removed by conventional drinking water treatment processes. An improved assessment will be developed for the potential exposure risks of nanomaterials in drinking water. This research would ultimately provide essential information that would support policy and decision-making regarding handling, disposal, and management of nanoscale materials in commerce, manufacturing and the environment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 12 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 7 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

fate, transport, toxicity, manufactured nanomaterials, drinking water,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Water, Environmental Chemistry, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Biochemistry, Drinking Water, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, fate and transport, health effects, human health effects, nanotechnology, carbon fullerene, other - risk assessment, particle exposure, community water system, environmental contaminants, human exposure, ambient particle health effects, engineered nanomaterials, respiratory impact, toxicity, cellular responses, drinking water contaminants, biochemical research, human health risk, drinking water system

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006 Progress Report
  • Final Report