Aquatic Toxicity of Waste Stream Nanoparticles

EPA Grant Number: R833317
Title: Aquatic Toxicity of Waste Stream Nanoparticles
Investigators: Gordon, Terry , Chen, Lung Chi , Wirgin, Isaac
Institution: New York University
EPA Project Officer: Karn, Barbara
Project Period: October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2009
Project Amount: $399,827
RFA: Exploratory Research: Nanotechnology Research Grants Investigating Environmental and Human Health Effects of Manufactured Nanomaterials: a Joint Research Solicitation-EPA, NSF, NIOSH, NIEHS (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Health Effects , Health , Safer Chemicals


The objective of this study is to determine the biological consequences of nanoparticle contamination of the aquatic environment. We hypothesize that there will be a particle-type dependent difference in the developmental toxicity of manufactured nanoparticles in aquatic species, and in testing this hypothesis, we will: 1) measure the differential toxicity of several types of nanoparticles in an estuarine species of fish, Atlantic tomcod; and 2) identify whether the embryo and larval stage of development of tomcod are particularly susceptible to carbon nanoparticle vs. nanotube toxicity. A number of investigators have clearly demonstrated that nanoparticle toxicity in the mammalian lung is governed, in part, by particle size. Our own studies have demonstrated that freshly formed nanoparticles produce lung injury and inflammation in mice and the extent of adverse effects is influenced by particle type as well as genetic host factors. Little research has been published, however, on whether these physico-chemcial properties of nanoparticles influence their toxicity in aquatic species. Thus, while a considerable data base has been established to understand the influence of physico-chemical properties of nanoparticle toxicity in a gaseous medium, it will be critical to understand the ability of various nanoparticles to produce toxicity once they have entered the waste stream and the aquatic environment. In the proposed studies, a group of particle toxicologists will collaborate with a fish toxicologist to explore the toxicity of a variety of manufactured nanoparticles in an established fish model of aquatic toxicity.


To test the hypothesis that there is a particle-type dependent difference in the aquatic toxicity of manufactured nanomaterials, we will expand our preliminary results to examine the aquatic toxicity of a wide range of nanoparticles. Our primary approach is to study the toxicity of particles present in nanoparticle manufacturers’ waste products because they have the greatest opportunity of entering the aquatic environment. We propose to study nanoparticle toxicity in tomcod fish at sensitive developmental stages: embryo and larval stages. The proposed endpoints will include: 1) basic toxicity endpoints (e.g., survival and time to hatching); 2) developmental morphology; 3) behavior (larval activity); and 4) gene expression changes.

Expected Results:

As determined in preliminary studies, we expect that nanoparticle toxicity will be influenced by a variety of exposure conditions including particle type (e.g., carbon toner particle vs. fullerene vs. nanotube), particle concentration, stage of manufacturing process (e.g., raw soot precursor material vs. purified final material vs. sludge waste product), and the natural composition of the aqueous medium. By careful analysis of the several endpoints included in the proposed developmental toxicity experiments, this work will provide key information regarding the toxicity of emerging nanoparticle technologies and the data obtained in the proposed aquatic studies can readily be used for extrapolation to ambient environments. In summary, the results from this proposal address a number of the research needs identified in this solicitation, including toxicity and exposure assessment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

nanoparticle, exposure, aquatic, bioavailability, fish,, Health, Scientific Discipline, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Biochemistry, biological pathways, bioavailability, genetic analysis, nanotechnology, carbon fullerene, human exposure, nanomaterials, toxicologic assessment, nanoparticle toxicity, carcinogenic

Progress and Final Reports:

2007 Progress Report
Final Report